Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Politicians and Pinocchios
"I am not ignorant how the Grammarians make a difference betweene speaking untrue and lying; and say that to speake untruly is to speake that which is false, but was reputed true; and that the definition of the Latin word, mentiri, whence the French word, mentir, is derived, which in English is to lie, implieth and meaneth to goe against ones conscience: and by consequence it concerneth onely those, who speake contrary to that which they know, of whom I speake."
("Of lyars", chapter IX of Montaigne's Essays Vol. I, you can read it here.)
It turns out that technically it is not the same thing to tell lies than to lie. To lie you have to know that what you are saying is not true and have the purpose to trick others into believing it. However, you can say things that are not true - that is, lies - for lack of knowledge and then you would not be lying. He who lies is a liar, but whoever tells lies is not always a liar.
A doubt that arises is whether Pinocchio's nose grew larger when he was lying as well as when he was telling lies. I would consider unfair if his nose grew larger in both situations, since Pinochio was naive and innocent and could sometimes say something untrue without meaning it, only due to ignorance or alteration of his perception.
Some politicians begin by lying and due to the quantity of times they repeat their litany at some stage they start believing their very own lies and then they technically stop lying, because then they are convinced that what they are saying is true. They merely tell lies and are not liars anymore, but mentally disturbed persons who have lost contact with reality. Their noses would stop growing in that moment, but from then on they should be concealed in a mental asylum. Mr. Aznar, Mr. Bush, this note's for you.