You Don’t Even Have To Mean It, We Will Examine Your Argument Anyway (Summer in the Republic 44)

Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (Islamic, died 725 AH/AD 1325). ‘The Story of the Talisman that Detects Insincerity as Told by the Princess of the White Pavilion,’ 1597-1598. ink and pigments on laid, non-European paper. Walters Art Museum (W.624.208B): Acquired by Henry Walters.

They say that once there was a king who wished to marry a woman who really loved him. He gained a talisman of sincerity that would show him when someone really meant what she said as opposed to lying just to get access to money and power.

Stop.

Think about this.

Nobody can pass this test not named Jesus from the city of Nazareth.

When are we ever fully sincere? The quest for sincerity allows us to prioritize our judgment about someone else’s mental disposition over that person’s actions . . . And since none of us who are not God have access to total knowledge of the internal mental states of a person, this leads to endless distrust. Does she mean it? Well, perhaps, I should ask: “Even if she does not mean it, is it a good idea anyway?”

Or put it backwards: some people excuse bad behavior, because (somehow) they know the person did not mean it! I should want to be utterly sincere, but endlessly wondering if you are intellectually honest is useless.How can I know?

Examine the ideas, look at them even if the person asserting them is so insincere the Great Pumpkin would dive bomb his pumpkin patch.

Sincerity is good for my soul, but not necessary for me to consider the ideas from a  person who makes a case for something I do not like. Insincerity is intellectual cowardice, but many a truth, or at least useful idea, has been spoken by a moral coward. This matters and Plato, that reasonable theist, suggests this in an unexpected exchange in Republic. 

Well, as long as I am convinced that you are speaking your mind, I am bound to pursue the argument. And it does seem to me, Thrasymachus, that now you are not mocking us but saying what you really think.

Why don’t you just address yourself to my argument? What difference ence does it make whether or not I believe what I say?

It makes no difference.

This is so unexpected. We think sincerity is everything. He means it, so I must pay attention.

No.

The value of the idea is the idea, not the forcefulness or sincerity of the person speaking.

The king looking for the totally sincere consort is bound to be disappointed. There is none totally sincere, no, not one. Instead, we look at ideas, measure their worth and then see if the person expressing those ideas acts on them. If so, then good enough. We can measure the outcomes of the actions and so weigh the value of the ideas.

Thank God. His Truth marches on, while my sincerity?  My sincerity is always less sure than the truth, because I am imperfect while truth is wonderful. If I mouth the truth, I am damned, but if you believe the truth I mutter, then you will be saved. My sincerity?

It makes no difference to eternal truth, though God help me, I want to be sincere.

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*I begin an informal summer reading of Republic using Scott/Sterling (a new translation for me). Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21. Part 22. Part 23. Part 24. Part 25. Part 26. Part 27. Part 28. Part 29. Part 30. Part 31. Part 32. Part 33. Part 34. Part 35. Part 36. Part 37. Part 38. Part 39. Part 40. Part 41. Part 42. Part 43. Part 44.

 

 


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