About The Course
In a healthy democracy, people take part in politics for the sake of ensuring social justice. There is no justice without truth and truthfulness in the public realm. Yet politics seems to be all about diplomacy, tact and intrigue where there is little room for honesty, sincerity, candor –the truth-related virtues. Thus, the relationship between truth and politics poses puzzles at once ancient and urgent.
Broadly, there are 3 alternative ways in which one might configure that relationship.
(A) Truth by itself has no power to mobilize people and politics is intrinsically deceitful. Truth or truthfulness has no place in politics — which is concerned with struggles for power among people; ethical politics is an oxymoron, and the world of real politics now is a ‘post-truth’ world.
(B) In theory, truth as informational accuracy and straightforwardness and honesty should be compatible with good politics, but in practice they are independent and only tenuously and contingently connected.
(C) Both in theory and practice, sustainable politics for the good of a people needs to be constrained by the virtues of truth: crucially, these consist in the practice of non-cruelty, equality and non-greed.
Which of these positions should we endorse?
In this intensive short course, we shall explore this question of great contemporary relevance, first in light of the ethical encyclopedia that is the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, second, in light of the political “experiments with Truth” conducted by M.K. Gandhi, and finally on the basis of a classic paper titled ‘Truth and Politics’ by the philosopher of “the human condition” Hannah Arendt .