Monday, August 20, 2018

Giuliani: "Truth Isn't Truth"

Just watched this, after hearing about Giuliani's "truth isn't truth" line.
   I had a good guess what Giuliani was trying to say even before I watched it, even though I didn't know anything about the specific topic of the interviews. Ergo I expected to be another effort by the progressive establishment to pretend that there's some nefarious epistemic shenanigans at the heart of Trumpism.
   But first!: I say the interview is worth watching.
   But zeroeth!: I do not care for Mr. Giuliani, and, as you know, I do not care for Mr. Trump, and as you may also know, I think Trump should just bloody well testify. Or talk to Mueller...grant an interview, whatever it is that's at issue. This is too important to play legal games with.
   Second: I actually thought that Giulliani made a strong, sober case. Again!: I have decided not to follow the details and twists and turns in this case as closely as I normally would. I've got other things to do. I can't obsessively follow this like I obsessively followed, say, the election debacle of 2000, or the lead-up to the Iraq war. But to me, RG's case seemed strong. I thought Chuck Todd mostly did his job--which, given the nature of his job, largely means giving RG the business. He did slip over the line a bit, I thought, from professional business-giver to derisive anti-Trump partisan at points. But it was close enough for government work.
   Finally!: As I expected, RG in no way literally meant that "truth isn't truth"...whatever the hell that even could mean... What he was saying was this: if person A testifies that p, and person B testifies that not-p, then we face an epistemic/evidential problem. That is: we don't know whether p is true or false. Not if that's all we have to go on, anyway. p is true...or p is false...but we don't know which. Truth is, of course, truth--thanks much, Captain tautology--but that's not going to help us in this (or any such) situation. What RG was saying was, basically: "truth is truth" doesn't help us determine what the truth actually is. And, of course, he's absolutely right.

   In response, Merriam-Webster helpfully tweeted the definition of 'truth.' So...the progressive establishment is on the case. Totally neutral with respect to the political question, of course! Sidebar question: in the course of the last six-or-so years, has M-W ever tweeted out the definition of 'woman' (or 'man')? Because that would be relevant. And helpful. But it would help the wrong side. Ergo: I doubt it. Note: this really is a sidebar. Though a relevant one...
   So, hey, I'm glad that the progressive establishment now thinks that truth matters. Though...curious that they've never make a peep about the left's long-standing, in-principle hostility to the notion... But anyway: Giuliani was, of course, in no way rejecting the idea of truth nor any such thing. This is just the latest version of the "reality-based community" / "alternate facts" nonsense.* (Here's the Guardian, doing its familiar kind of thing on this.) As in those other two cases, the intended meaning might be bullshit, but the intention wasn't to advance some non-standard conception of truth or knowledge.
   Incidentally, Todd's best argument against RG was: well, one way to distinguish between the claims of person A and person B is to go on their track records--who's got a better record of telling the truth?Trump's obviously not winning that battle against...well...anybody.

*When Rove called liberals "the reality-based community," he wasn't rejecting the idea of reality in any way, shape, or form. He was very clearly making a Marxist-ish point: liberals have merely tried to understand the world; neo-conservatives aim to change it. When Conway said "alternative facts" she pretty clearly meant different facts--that is, other facts that are evidence for a contrary conclusion. Rove: meh. Probably bullshit, but the claim was more aspirational or something. Messed up, IMO, but not epistemically or metaphysically deviant. Conway: bullshit. Spicer denied the facts, but didn't (as I recall) seriously challenge them by offering credible contrary evidence. I wasn't really a debatable issue. Trump was just lying/bullshitting about the comparative sizes of the crowds, and Spicer was lamely trying to defend the indefensible. Conway wasn't endorsing a deviant logic, epistemology, or metaphysics...she was just full of shit.
   Perhaps, under such conditions, people just can't help trying to make mountains out of molehills. But...broken record...when the vanguard of the other side is offering up such patent falsehoods itself and does semi-officially reject the idea of truth...well...this stuff just gets old. To my mind, anyway.


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