Page 2 of 33A Pair of Philosophical Plays on the Morality of Truthfulness and Falsehood.rtf09.12.16 8:09 PM
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
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)!
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)?
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
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
.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
, 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.