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A Pair of Philosophical Plays on the Morality of Truthfulness and Falsehood

A Pair of Philosophical Plays on the Morality of Truthfulness and Falsehood

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Published by e.gajd
[Philosopher Raymond Smullyan] concludes [his] play with the moralistically engaging statement that the truly honest truth-teller is the one unaware of being truthful. This challenges the prevalent idea that truth-telling automatically equals 'good' morality. Moralistically, the unconscious truth-teller is a-moral because being truthful does not require that s/he make a moral choice. And so, in Chuang-Tzu-style, Smullyan arrives at the logical conundrum that so-called pure honesty is amoral.
...

My little old brain puzzled and mulled over some of the philosophical consequences of this. I thought that if Smullyan's conclusion ... is sound, then the same argument will be able to be made from the opposite direction.
...
So I put it out onto e.paper in the form of a one act play. I did so because it is a great form for this kind of playful thinking in, again, the nature of Chuang-Tzu's Taoist writing.
[Philosopher Raymond Smullyan] concludes [his] play with the moralistically engaging statement that the truly honest truth-teller is the one unaware of being truthful. This challenges the prevalent idea that truth-telling automatically equals 'good' morality. Moralistically, the unconscious truth-teller is a-moral because being truthful does not require that s/he make a moral choice. And so, in Chuang-Tzu-style, Smullyan arrives at the logical conundrum that so-called pure honesty is amoral.
...

My little old brain puzzled and mulled over some of the philosophical consequences of this. I thought that if Smullyan's conclusion ... is sound, then the same argument will be able to be made from the opposite direction.
...
So I put it out onto e.paper in the form of a one act play. I did so because it is a great form for this kind of playful thinking in, again, the nature of Chuang-Tzu's Taoist writing.

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Published by: e.gajd on Dec 17, 2009
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01/14/2013

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Page 1 of 33A Pair of Philosophical Plays on the Morality of Truthfulness and Falsehood.rtf09.12.16 8:09 PM
A Pair of Philosophical Playson theMorality of Truthfulness and Falsehood
by
Raymond Smullyan 
and
Guy A. Duperreault
 
Page 2 of 33A Pair of Philosophical Plays on the Morality of Truthfulness and Falsehood.rtf09.12.16 8:09 PM
In
5000 BC and other Philosophical Fantasies
, as well as in his many other books,Raymond Smullyan, a professor of mathematics and great thinker in a Taoist manner,skewers with great glee logical thought and fallacies of logic in well written andextremely entertaining little stories, parables, thoughts, quips and barbs. He alsoquestions accepted truths, such as for example, from
5000 BC 
:
It has ... been argued that if a person is inconsistent, he will end up believingeverything. But is this really so?I have known many inconsistent people, and they don't appear to believeeverything.The inconsistent people I have known have not seemed to have a higher ratioof false beliefs to true ones than those who make a superhuman effort tomaintain consistency at all costs. True, people who are compulsively consistentwill probably save themselves certain false beliefs, but I'm afraid that they willalso miss many true ones (39-40)!
and:
I think that ... to be overly concerned about whether one's beliefs are or arenot the result of wishful thinking is very bad, ultimately destroying, rather thanaiding, the objectivity of one's judgement. Not only that, but this concern maywell prevent one from knowing what he really thinks. How many fine thoughtshave been repressed because it is feared that they may be only wishful thinking(99)?
From
5000 BC 
I particularly enjoyed his short one act play, 'Why are You Truthful?'This is a perfectly executed conceit in Taoist inspired writing. It is an humorous andphilosophically sophisticated argument that truthfulness is moralistically relative.Smullyan's brilliance is that he makes this argument without actually stating that that iswhat he is doing using the characters' dialogue.He concludes the play with the moralistically engaging statement that the truly
honest 
 truth-teller is the one unaware of being truthful. This challenges the prevalent idea thattruth-telling automatically equals 'good' morality. Moralistically, the unconscious truth-teller is a-moral because being truthful does not require that s/he make a
moral 
 
choice
.And so, in Chuang-Tzu-style, Smullyan arrives at the logical conundrum that so-calledpure honesty is amoral. I love these sorts of western-flavoured
koans
, especially whenthey are spun with Taoist philosophical humour and chutzpah. And, what is more, Ithink Smullyan proves, logically, his case because he was able to move his argumentoutside logic's delimitations.
 
Page 3 of 33A Pair of Philosophical Plays on the Morality of Truthfulness and Falsehood.rtf09.12.16 8:09 PM
My little old brain puzzled and mulled over some of the philosophical consequences of this. I thought that if Smullyan's conclusion – well, not Smullyan's, as such, as hisconclusion is a re-iteration of a great deal of Taoist/Zen thinking – anyway, I thoughtthat
if 
this argument is sound, then the same argument will be able to be made fromthe opposite direction.I
felt 
that that was probably true, but I needed to explore the argument outside myhead. So I put it out onto e.paper in the form of a one act play. I did so because it is agreat form for this kind of playful thinking in, again, the nature of Chuang-Tzu's Taoistwriting.But, more to the point, I wrote my own play in order to provide Smullyan with myhighest form of praise: so in imitation of "Why are you Truthful?' I wrote 'Why are youFalse?' a contrarian play in one act.Now a pair of plays, that, if I have been lucky, will be more than the sum of their partspaired.Enjoy!

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