Reckoning with Truth and What-looks-like-truth-but-isn’t

From Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, a philosophy:

Ἐπεὶ δ’ οὐ μόνον δεῖ τἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ αἴτιον τοῦ ψεύδους· τοῦτο γὰρ συμβάλλεται πρὸς τὴν πίστιν· ὅταν γὰρ εὔλογον φανῇ τὸ διὰ τί φαίνεται ἀληθὲς οὐκ ὂν ἀληθές, πιστεύειν ποιεῖ τῷ ἀληθεῖ μᾶλλον·

Now then it is necessary to say not only what is true but also the reason for the falsehood; for this contributes to belief. For when something appears plausible (εὔλογον—eulogon or well-reasoned), the reason why it appears true when it is not true, makes one believe what is true more.


I detest apologetics, mainly because where I live the state’s decades-long project of training the people to feel and make decisions emotionally instead of to think and discern the validity of deductions from premises, along with the plausibility of those premises in the first place, has made argument useless for changing minds.

And why should we want to use argument to change minds, anyway?

After all, even if we all could see whether or not this or that point were validly deduced from these or those principles, we have not so much as touched the organ which adopts principles: the heart.

This is why art, not argument, alone changes hearts. The heart cannot be forced, but only responds to beauty in love; argument with its violence can no more conquer the heart than the principles of the heart can be justified by reason alone.

Why do I love my wife? I do not know. I know that I can do no otherwise. And I know that, as I once confided to an old friend, if I ever could give a reason why I love her, it would be the beginning of the end of it. For if something has a cause, then it has an end.

And yet, without both, we cannot have the free exercise of either. Which I suppose is why this comment leads Aristotle immediately to a explanation of why somatic (sc., bodily) pleasures seem to be preferable.

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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