Saturday, January 10, 2009

LIes, deception and hoaxes


This week the news headlines in Australia point to the hoax played on the long established literary magazine Quadrant. Hoaxes play an important role in Australia. "Taking the piss" is a colloquialism that is equivalent to pulling your leg.

And so, my thoughts turn to the subject of lies, deception and hoaxes.
First, I have to confess that it's been a revelation to me to realize how much of a handicap honesty can be.
It seems that honest people are the most likely of victims in this modern world. I don't say this with relish but with dismay.
If I had my time over again, I would certainly attempt to master the art of lying. In fact,I would make an effort to coach my children on the art of lying.

Consider this. The biggest lie of all is Santa Claus. Why do we knowingly participate in lying to our children about the existence of a mythical character while at the same time extolling the virtues of truth?
How do we reconcile the fact that children will eventually realize we've been deceiving them?
Do we really value honesty as much as we say we do? Or are we in fact lying?

In fact, without lying people in professions such as law, sales and politics would have a very short and unsuccessful career.

In fact, lying and deception aren't even limited to the criminal sector of society. Maybe that's what we would like to believe.
Here's a thought, we love deception so much we accept is as a form of entertainment called Magic. Maybe deception isn't quite lying but that's splitting hairs.

I would rank the hoax as the most sublime and exquisite form of lying.

Consider these examples.

The Helen Demidenko scandal or the fictional autobiography that won the most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin award.

The Roswell incident and the alien autopsy

Ern Malley the poet that never existed.

Piltdown Man

The Book of Mormon

The Cottingley Fairies

The Protocols of Zion

The War of the World's broadcast by Orson Welles

The Hitler Diaries

But, my favorite and as yet unexposed hoax is The Quran.


Here is a hoax that is worthy of examination. An article published in Quadrant magazine in good faith that it was the genuine article.
Here is a challenge.
Other than telling you the author is not who she says she is, which part of the article is deception?
Answer here...
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14 comments:

Baconeater said...

White lies and deception probably have some evolutionary advantages.
Like when a guy says "I love you, that is why we should have sex" or a woman says "you are the best"

Jeannie said...

I am also hampered with honesty. It keeps me from being as successful as others in my field because people like to believe what they are told more than believing their own experience. Hype is what you need for success. All hype is exaggeration and misrepresentation with only a kernel of truth.

Politicians have to be corrupt to make it to the top. They need influential people to support them and the only way to do that is by supporting the influential people's agendas.

WomanHonorThyself said...

fascinating dude..thanks for this find!..did they reveal the ROP yet?!!

FJ said...

Please. All of life's a sham. Ask Lessing's son.

FJ said...

Me, I'm off to to find another blossom... "Taa-taa!"

Jonathan Swift, "Battle of the Books"

Things were at this crisis when a material accident fell out. For upon the highest corner of a large window, there dwelt a certain spider, swollen up to the first magnitude by the destruction of infinite numbers of flies, whose spoils lay scattered before the gates of his palace, like human bones before the cave of some giant. The avenues to his castle were guarded with turnpikes and palisadoes, all after the modern way of fortification. After you had passed several courts you came to the centre, wherein you might behold the constable himself in his own lodgings, which had windows fronting to each avenue, and ports to sally out upon all occasions of prey or defence. In this mansion he had for some time dwelt in peace and plenty, without danger to his person by swallows from above, or to his palace by brooms from below; when it was the pleasure of fortune to conduct thither a wandering bee, to whose curiosity a broken pane in the glass had discovered itself, and in he went, where, expatiating a while, he at last happened to alight upon one of the outward walls of the spider’s citadel; which, yielding to the unequal weight, sunk down to the very foundation. Thrice he endeavoured to force his passage, and thrice the centre shook. The spider within, feeling the terrible convulsion, supposed at first that nature was approaching to her final dissolution, or else that Beelzebub, with all his legions, was come to revenge the death of many thousands of his subjects whom his enemy had slain and devoured. However, he at length valiantly resolved to issue forth and meet his fate. Meanwhile the bee had acquitted himself of his toils, and, posted securely at some distance, was employed in cleansing his wings, and disengaging them from the ragged remnants of the cobweb. By this time the spider was adventured out, when, beholding the chasms, the ruins, and dilapidations of his fortress, he was very near at his wit’s end; he stormed and swore like a madman, and swelled till he was ready to burst. At length, casting his eye upon the bee, and wisely gathering causes from events (for they know each other by sight), “A plague split you,” said he; “is it you, with a vengeance, that have made this litter here; could not you look before you, and be d-d? Do you think I have nothing else to do (in the devil’s name) but to mend and repair after you?” “Good words, friend,” said the bee, having now pruned himself, and being disposed to droll; “I’ll give you my hand and word to come near your kennel no more; I was never in such a confounded pickle since I was born.” “Sirrah,” replied the spider, “if it were not for breaking an old custom in our family, never to stir abroad against an enemy, I should come and teach you better manners.” “I pray have patience,” said the bee, “or you’ll spend your substance, and, for aught I see, you may stand in need of it all, towards the repair of your house.” “Rogue, rogue,” replied the spider, “yet methinks you should have more respect to a person whom all the world allows to be so much your betters.” “By my troth,” said the bee, “the comparison will amount to a very good jest, and you will do me a favour to let me know the reasons that all the world is pleased to use in so hopeful a dispute.” At this the spider, having swelled himself into the size and posture of a disputant, began his argument in the true spirit of controversy, with resolution to be heartily scurrilous and angry, to urge on his own reasons without the least regard to the answers or objections of his opposite, and fully predetermined in his mind against all conviction.

“Not to disparage myself,” said he, “by the comparison with such a rascal, what art thou but a vagabond without house or home, without stock or inheritance? born to no possession of your own, but a pair of wings and a drone-pipe. Your livelihood is a universal plunder upon nature; a freebooter over fields and gardens; and, for the sake of stealing, will rob a nettle as easily as a violet. Whereas I am a domestic animal, furnished with a native stock within myself. This large castle (to show my improvements in the mathematics) is all built with my own hands, and the materials extracted altogether out of my own person.”

“I am glad,” answered the bee, “to hear you grant at least that I am come honestly by my wings and my voice; for then, it seems, I am obliged to Heaven alone for my flights and my music; and Providence would never have bestowed on me two such gifts without designing them for the noblest ends. I visit, indeed, all the flowers and blossoms of the field and garden, but whatever I collect thence enriches myself without the least injury to their beauty, their smell, or their taste. Now, for you and your skill in architecture and other mathematics, I have little to say: in that building of yours there might, for aught I know, have been labour and method enough; but, by woeful experience for us both, it is too plain the materials are naught; and I hope you will henceforth take warning, and consider duration and matter, as well as method and art. You boast, indeed, of being obliged to no other creature, but of drawing and spinning out all from yourself; that is to say, if we may judge of the liquor in the vessel by what issues out, you possess a good plentiful store of dirt and poison in your breast; and, though I would by no means lesson or disparage your genuine stock of either, yet I doubt you are somewhat obliged, for an increase of both, to a little foreign assistance. Your inherent portion of dirt does not fall of acquisitions, by sweepings exhaled from below; and one insect furnishes you with a share of poison to destroy another. So that, in short, the question comes all to this: whether is the nobler being of the two, that which, by a lazy contemplation of four inches round, by an overweening pride, feeding, and engendering on itself, turns all into excrement and venom, producing nothing at all but flybane and a cobweb; or that which, by a universal range, with long search, much study, true judgment, and distinction of things, brings home honey and wax.”

This dispute was managed with such eagerness, clamour, and warmth, that the two parties of books, in arms below, stood silent a while, waiting in suspense what would be the issue; which was not long undetermined: for the bee, grown impatient at so much loss of time, fled straight away to a bed of roses, without looking for a reply, and left the spider, like an orator, collected in himself, and just prepared to burst out.

Lexcen said...

FJ, metaphors and Nietzsche. Where is Plato on truth?

FJ said...

With Plato, it's all a matter of "degree". Are you familiar with his "Divided Line" epistemology? Plato, "Republic"

You have to imagine, then, that there are two ruling powers, and that one of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over the visible. I do not say heaven, lest you should fancy that I am playing upon the name ('ourhanoz, orhatoz'). May I suppose that you have this distinction of the visible and intelligible fixed in your mind?

I have.

Now take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts, and divide each of them again in the same proportion, and suppose the two main divisions to answer, one to the visible and the other to the intelligible, and then compare the subdivisions in respect of their clearness and want of clearness, and you will find that the first section in the sphere of the visible consists of images. And by images I mean, in the first place, shadows, and in the second place, reflections in water and in solid, smooth and polished bodies and the like: Do you understand?

Yes, I understand.

Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the resemblance, to include the animals which we see, and everything that grows or is made.

Very good.

Would you not admit that both the sections of this division have different degrees of truth, and that the copy is to the original as the sphere of opinion is to the sphere of knowledge?

Most undoubtedly.

Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of the intellectual is to be divided.

In what manner?

Thus:—There are two subdivisions, in the lower of which the soul uses the figures given by the former division as images; the enquiry can only be hypothetical, and instead of going upwards to a principle descends to the other end; in the higher of the two, the soul passes out of hypotheses, and goes up to a principle which is above hypotheses, making no use of images as in the former case, but proceeding only in and through the ideas themselves.

I do not quite understand your meaning, he said.

Then I will try again; you will understand me better when I have made some preliminary remarks. You are aware that students of geometry, arithmetic, and the kindred sciences assume the odd and the even and the figures and three kinds of angles and the like in their several branches of science; these are their hypotheses, which they and every body are supposed to know, and therefore they do not deign to give any account of them either to themselves or others; but they begin with them, and go on until they arrive at last, and in a consistent manner, at their conclusion?

Yes, he said, I know.

And do you not know also that although they make use of the visible forms and reason about them, they are thinking not of these, but of the ideals which they resemble; not of the figures which they draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on—the forms which they draw or make, and which have shadows and reflections in water of their own, are converted by them into images, but they are really seeking to behold the things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind?

That is true.

And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible, although in the search after it the soul is compelled to use hypotheses; not ascending to a first principle, because she is unable to rise above the region of hypothesis, but employing the objects of which the shadows below are resemblances in their turn as images, they having in relation to the shadows and reflections of them a greater distinctness, and therefore a higher value.

I understand, he said, that you are speaking of the province of geometry and the sister arts.

And when I speak of the other division of the intelligible, you will understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason herself attains by the power of dialectic, using the hypotheses not as first principles, but only as hypotheses—that is to say, as steps and points of departure into a world which is above hypotheses, in order that she may soar beyond them to the first principle of the whole; and clinging to this and then to that which depends on this, by successive steps she descends again without the aid of any sensible object, from ideas, through ideas, and in ideas she ends.

I understand you, he replied; not perfectly, for you seem to me to be describing a task which is really tremendous; but, at any rate, I understand you to say that knowledge and being, which the science of dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as they are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle, those who contemplate them appear to you not to exercise the higher reason upon them, although when a first principle is added to them they are cognizable by the higher reason. And the habit which is concerned with geometry and the cognate sciences I suppose that you would term understanding and not reason, as being intermediate between opinion and reason.

You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now, corresponding to these four divisions, let there be four faculties in the soul—reason answering to the highest, understanding to the second, faith (or conviction) to the third, and perception of shadows (opinion) to the last—and let there be a scale of them, and let us suppose that the several faculties have clearness in the same degree that their objects have truth.

I understand, he replied, and give my assent, and accept your arrangement.

Lexcen said...

I read The Republic a very long time ago. What impressed me was the warning to be careful of sophistry. Plato distinguished truth from sophistry. These days it seems sophistry is rife.

FJ said...

Yes, Plato's "Sophist" was one of my favorite dialogues. I doubt there are many who could follow it today.

Plato, "Sophist"

STRANGER: The hunting of animals who live in the water has the general name of fishing.

THEAETETUS: Yes.

STRANGER: And this sort of hunting may be further divided also into two principal kinds?

THEAETETUS: What are they?

STRANGER: There is one kind which takes them in nets, another which takes them by a blow.

THEAETETUS: What do you mean, and how do you distinguish them?

STRANGER: As to the first kind—all that surrounds and encloses anything to prevent egress, may be rightly called an enclosure.

THEAETETUS: Very true.

STRANGER: For which reason twig baskets, casting-nets, nooses, creels, and the like may all be termed 'enclosures'?

THEAETETUS: True.

STRANGER: And therefore this first kind of capture may be called by us capture with enclosures, or something of that sort?

THEAETETUS: Yes.

STRANGER: The other kind, which is practised by a blow with hooks and three-pronged spears, when summed up under one name, may be called striking, unless you, Theaetetus, can find some better name?

THEAETETUS: Never mind the name—what you suggest will do very well.

STRANGER: There is one mode of striking, which is done at night, and by the light of a fire, and is by the hunters themselves called firing, or spearing by firelight.

THEAETETUS: True.

STRANGER: And the fishing by day is called by the general name of barbing, because the spears, too, are barbed at the point.

THEAETETUS: Yes, that is the term.

STRANGER: Of this barb-fishing, that which strikes the fish who is below from above is called spearing, because this is the way in which the three-pronged spears are mostly used.

THEAETETUS: Yes, it is often called so.

STRANGER: Then now there is only one kind remaining.

THEAETETUS: What is that?

STRANGER: When a hook is used, and the fish is not struck in any chance part of his body, as he is with the spear, but only about the head and mouth, and is then drawn out from below upwards with reeds and rods:—What is the right name of that mode of fishing, Theaetetus?

THEAETETUS: I suspect that we have now discovered the object of our search.

STRANGER: Then now you and I have come to an understanding not only about the name of the angler's art, but about the definition of the thing itself. One half of all art was acquisitive—half of the acquisitive art was conquest or taking by force, half of this was hunting, and half of hunting was hunting animals, half of this was hunting water animals—of this again, the under half was fishing, half of fishing was striking; a part of striking was fishing with a barb, and one half of this again, being the kind which strikes with a hook and draws the fish from below upwards, is the art which we have been seeking, and which from the nature of the operation is denoted angling or drawing up (aspalieutike, anaspasthai).

THEAETETUS: The result has been quite satisfactorily brought out.

STRANGER: And now, following this pattern, let us endeavour to find out what a Sophist is.

THEAETETUS: By all means.

STRANGER: The first question about the angler was, whether he was a skilled artist or unskilled?

THEAETETUS: True.

STRANGER: And shall we call our new friend unskilled, or a thorough master of his craft?

THEAETETUS: Certainly not unskilled, for his name, as, indeed, you imply, must surely express his nature.

STRANGER: Then he must be supposed to have some art.

THEAETETUS: What art?

STRANGER: By heaven, they are cousins! it never occurred to us.

THEAETETUS: Who are cousins?

STRANGER: The angler and the Sophist.

THEAETETUS: In what way are they related?

STRANGER: They both appear to me to be hunters.

FJ said...

Using dialectic to "split" every concept into halves... creating Platonic "dualisms".

Never were "fictions" used to create "better truths", than under Plato.

Nietzsche, "WtP"

493 (1885)
Truth is the kind of error without which a certain species of life could not live. The value for life is ultimately decisive.

534 (1887-1888)
The criterion of truth resides in the enhancement of the feeling of power.


Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

110
Origins of Knowledge. Throughout immense stretches of time the intellect produced nothing but errors; some of them proved to be useful and preservative of the species: he who fell in with them, or inherited them, waged the battle for himself and his offspring with better success. Those erroneous articles of faith which were successively transmitted by inheritance, and have finally become almost the property and stock of the human species, are, for example, the following: that there are enduring things, that there are equal things, that there are things, substances, and bodies, that a thing is what it appears, that our will is free that what is good for me is also good absolutely. It was only very late that the deniers, doubters of such propositions came forward - it was only very late that truth made its appearance as the most impotent form of knowledge. It seemed as if it were impossible to get along with truth, our organism was adapted for the very opposite; all its higher functions, the perceptions of the senses, and in general every kind of sensation, cooperated with those primevally embodied, fundamental errors. Moreover, those propositions became the very standards of knowledge according to which the "true "and the "false" were determined - throughout the whole domain of pure logic. The strength of conceptions does not, therefore, depend on their degree of truth, but on their antiquity, their embodiment, their character as conditions of life. Where life and knowledge seemed to conflict, there has never been serious contention; denial and doubt have there been regarded as madness. The exceptional thinkers like the Eleatics, who, in spite of this, advanced and maintained the antitheses of the natural errors, believed that it was possible also to live these counterparts: it was they who devised the sage as the man of immutability, impersonality and universality of intuition, as one and all at the same time, with a special faculty for that reverse kind of knowledge; they were of the belief that their knowledge was at the same time the principle of life. To be able to affirm all this, however, they had to deceive themselves concerning their own condition: they had to attribute to themselves impersonality and unchanging permanence, they had to mistake the nature of the philosophic individual, deny the force of the impulses in cognition, and conceive of reason generally as an entirely free and self-originating activity; they kept their eyes shut to the fact that they also had reached their doctrines in contradiction to valid methods, or through their longing for repose or for exclusive possession or for domination. The subtler development of sincerity and of skepticism finally made these men impossible; their life also, and their judgments, turned out to be dependent on the primeval impulses and fundamental errors of all sentient beings. The subtler sincerity and skepticism arose wherever two antithetical maxims appeared to be applicable to life, because both of them were compatible with the fundamental errors; where, therefore, there could be contention concerning a higher or lower degree of utility for life; and likewise where new maxims proved to be, not necessarily useful, but at least not injurious, as expressions of an intellectual impulse to play a game that was like all games innocent and happy The human brain was gradually filled with such judgments and convictions; and in this tangled skein there arose ferment, strife and lust for power. Not only utility and delight, but every kind of impulse took part in the struggle for "truths"; the intellectual struggle became a business, an attraction, a calling, a duty, an honor; cognizing and striving for the true finally arranged themselves as needs among other needs. From that moment not only belief and conviction, but also examination, denial, distrust and contradiction became forces; all "evil "instincts were subordinated to knowledge, were placed in its service, and acquired the prestige of the permitted, the honored, the useful, and finally the appearance and innocence of the good. Knowledge thus became a portion of life itself, and as life it became a continually growing power; until finally the cognitions and those primeval, fundamental errors clashed with each other, both as life, both as power, both in the same man. The thinker is now the being in whom the impulse to truth and those life-preserving errors wage their first conflict, now that the impulse to truth has also proved itself to be a life-preserving power. In comparison with the importance of this conflict everything else is indifferent; the final question concerning the conditions of life is here raised, and the first attempt is here made to answer it by experiment. How far is truth susceptible of embodiment - that is the question, that is the experiment.

FJ said...

Extra credit,

Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

111
Origin of the Logical. Where has logic originated in men's heads? Undoubtedly out of the illogical, the domain of which must originally have been immense. But numberless beings who reasoned otherwise than we do at present, perished; albeit that they may have come nearer to truth than we! Whoever, for example, could not discern the "like" often enough with regard to food, and with regard to animals dangerous to him, whoever, therefore, deduced too slowly, or was too circumspect in his deductions, had smaller probability of survival than he who in all similar cases immediately divined the equality. The preponderating inclination, however, to deal with the similar as the equal - an illogical inclination, for there is no thing equal in itself - first created the whole basis of logic. It was just so (in order that the conception of substance should originate, this being indispensable to logic, although in the strictest sense nothing actual corresponds to it) that for a long period the changing process in things had to be overlooked, and remain unperceived; the beings not seeing correctly had an advantage over those who saw everything "in flux." In itself every high degree of circumspection in conclusions, every skeptical inclination, is a great danger to life. No living being might have been preserved unless the contrary inclination - to affirm rather than suspend judgment, to mistake and fabricate rather than wait, to assent rather than deny, to decide rather than be in the right - had been cultivated with extra ordinary assiduity. The course of logical thought and reasoning in our modern brain corresponds to a process and struggle of impulses, which singly and in themselves are all very illogical and unjust; we experience usually only the result of the struggle so rapidly and secretly does this primitive mechanism now operate in us.
112
Cause and Effect. We say it is "explanation "; but it is only in "description" that we are in advance of the older stages of knowledge and science. We describe better, we explain just as little as our predecessors. We have discovered a manifold succession where the naive man and investigator of older cultures saw only two things, "cause" and "effect,"as it was said; we have perfected the conception of becoming, but have not got a knowledge of what is above and behind the conception. The series of "causes" stands before us much more complete in every case; we conclude that this and that must first precede in order that that other may follow - but we have not grasped anything thereby. The peculiarity, for example, in every chemical process seems a "miracle," the same as before, just like all locomotion; nobody has "explained" impulse. How could we ever explain? We operate only with things which do not exist, with lines, surfaces, bodies, atoms, divisible times, divisible spaces - how can explanation ever be possible when we first make everything a conception, our conception? It is sufficient to regard science as the exactest humanizing of things that is possible; we always learn to describe ourselves more accurately by describing things and their successions. Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality; in fact there is a continuum before us, from which we isolate a few portions - just as we always observe a motion as isolated points, and therefore do not properly see it, but infer it. The abruptness with which many effects take place leads us into error; it is however only an abruptness for us. There is an infinite multitude of processes in that abrupt moment which escape us. An intellect which could see cause and effect as a continuum, which could see the flux of events not according to our mode of perception, as things arbitrarily separated and broken - would throw aside the conception of cause and effect, and would deny all conditionality.


115
The Four Errors. Man has been reared by his errors: firstly, he saw himself always imperfect; secondly, he attributed to himself imaginary qualities; thirdly, he felt himself in a false position in relation to the animals and nature; fourthly, he always devised new tables of values, and accepted them for a time as eternal and unconditioned, so that at one time this, and at another time that human impulse or state stood first, and was ennobled in consequence. When one has deducted the effect of these four errors, one has also deducted humanity, humaneness, and "human dignity."

Lexcen said...

"Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality; in fact there is a continuum before us, from which we isolate a few portions - just as we always observe a motion as isolated points, and therefore do not properly see it, but infer it."
I like that quote. I reverberates today in the scientific notion of "false positives". Now this leads to the thought about superstition and religion. Another thought is that logic certainly had its advantages in the survival of the human species but how do we explain the persistence of superstition? As for the search to define what is "truth", philosophers have managed to bring themselves to the point of questioning everything. Nihilism reigns supreme and another unfortunate consequence is the influence on modern teaching methods of "outcomes based" education.

FJ said...

As Plato stated at the conclusion of the Parmenides dialect...

Then may we not sum up the argument in a word and say truly: If one is not, then nothing is?

Certainly.

Let thus much be said; and further let us affirm what seems to be the truth, that, whether one is or is not, one and the others in relation to themselves and one another, all of them, in every way, are and are not, and appear to be and appear not to be.

Most true.


Nietzsche:Plato::Zeno:Parmenides

FJ said...

...how do we explain the persistence of superstition?

It was useful for human survival.

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