Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Leo Strauss has a lot to answer for

I commented in some else's f-locked post the other day that I thought modern conservatism was influenced by the theories of Chicago philosopher Leo Strauss, who argued that it was legitimate to tell lies to gain power (I am crudely collapsing his theory into a soundbite).

Understandably a conservative replied saying that liberals tell lies too - which is perfectly fair comment. But leaving the rest of her argument aside I was struck by her example of a 'liberal lie'. She had heard a liberal professor say that a school shouldn't be called an 'all black' school if it had white teachers.

Now this kind of thing makes me feel disoriented. That's not the kind of statement that can be a lie. It's not a fact assertion. It's not even a statement of value (well not exactly). It's an argument that we ought to use language in one way rather than another. You can disagree, but it's a matter of disagreeing how to use words. Nobody on either side is 'lying'.

So funnily enough her argument against my position sort of reinforced it in my mind. It seemed she didn't understand what a lie was (and hence what truth is) and the implications of that are enormous. I know it's risky to extrapolate from one example - but this isn't one isolated example. I listen to Sarah Palin lately and it's like she doesn't know what an argument is, or what reality is.

ETA for example:
"As we send our young men and women overseas in a war zone to fight for democracy and freedoms, including freedom of the press, we've really got to have a mutually beneficial relationship here with those fighting the freedom of the press, and then the press, though not taking advantage and exploiting a situation, perhaps they would want to capture and abuse the privilege. We just want truth, we want fairness, we want balance".

Strauss argued there was another level, below the fake discourse, where true beliefs lay hidden. I don't know. Sometimes I feel that extreme conservatives are utterly lost, like that man in Colditz who pretended to be mad in order to escape, and became in fact mad.
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