Essay On Importance Of Truthfulness

Williams is not attempting to provide a theory of truth, he rather hopes to give us “the value of truth” (6).Williams believes that the notion of truth he will be working with reflects “everyone’s concept of truth” (271).

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Consequently we cannot limit our discussions of deception to merely straightforward verbal lies (such as Sissela Bok attempts to do, in her groundbreaking study Lying [1989]).

For Williams lies are pernicious for at least two reasons: (1) the liar betrays the trust of the dupe; and (2) the liar exerts power over the dupe, manipulating his or her beliefs and thus (potentially) his or her choices.

Williams does not address the sorts of objections that a pragmatist or some other “denier” of truth might raise to his idea that truthfulness presupposes a concept of truth, and it is a shame that he doesn’t.

Williams also claims that truthfulness is intrinsically valuable, and though many of us will be inclined to agree with him, it is hard to see how his State-of-Nature story can provide truthfulness with more than instrumental value.

And, in the state of nature Williams imagines, the accurate and sincere reporting of truths between persons certainly seems to be necessary to the development of trust between persons, and facilitates human flourishing.

Truthfulness, as Williams rightly argues, is instrumentally valuable.Here comes a bear” what truly approaches is a nasty enemy combatant cunningly disguised in a bear-suit.It is easy enough to imagine experiences suffered by our State-of-Nature pragmatist that reliably substantiated such a mistaken belief.In a particularly interesting discussion of ways people tell lies, Williams uses Grice’s idea of “conversational implicatures” to expand the range of what counts as deception.One reason we value sincerity, he argues, is that “in relying on what someone said, one inevitably relies on more than what he said” (100).Williams is aware of this difficulty, which brings me to chapter 5, “Sincerity: Lying and Other Styles of Deceit,” my favorite chapter in the book.Here Williams makes many valuable contributions to current philosophical thinking about deception.Plato’s gennaion pseudos in the Republic is justified specifically in terms of its instrumental benefits, and later thinkers such as Machiavelli, Grotius, and in our own day Arthur Sylvester (“The Government Has the Right to Lie,” Saturday Evening Post, November 18, 1967) have similarly insisted that deception is justified and even necessary to produce certain goods of human flourishing.And most of us will agree that at least some deceptive practices—such as the lie of a physician to a dying child—can be justified instrumentally.It is a justified, working pragmatic belief, and yet Williams (and most of the rest of us) would count it as false.Williams’ virtues of truthfulness can provide increasingly good justifications for a belief, but unless “truth” in Williams’ sense is simply the best possible justification or justifications for a belief, it doesn’t look as though these virtues will provide the “truth”.

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