Honesty Lost?

Tyranny of Lost Honesty

Truth Or: About Clouds and Roads


Only Problems of Academics?

The Moral of the Story is …



Tyranny of Lost Honesty

Not cruelty is the attribute of tyranny, but the destruction of the public political realm, monopolised by the despot by claiming ‘wisdom’ … or based on thirst for power, i.e. insisting on citizens looking after their private concerns, leaving it to him, the ‘ruler, to take of the public matters’.[1]

Of course, there are good reasons for proper referencing, based on sound and serious work with books, how, otherwise, should we climb up on the shoulders of giants ….., to borrow from Isaac Newton.

But if serious work is ridiculed by paranoia-infected, formalist series-killers of intellectual freedom one may have to think if one should change discipline, from giant-climbing to em–powerwalking, enabling the intellect to breath again … Or as Frédéric Gros writes:

Many others have written their books solely from their reading of other books, so that many books exude the stuffy odour of libraries. By what does one judge a book? By its smell (and even more, as we shall see, by its cadence). Its smell: far too many books have the fusty odour of reading rooms or desks. Lightless rooms, poorly ventilated. The air circulates badly between the shelves and becomes saturated with the scent of mildew, the slow decomposition of paper, ink undergoing chemical change. The air is loaded with miasmas there. Other books breathe a livelier air; the bracing air of outdoors, the wind of high mountains, even the icy gust of the high crags buffeting the body; or in the morning, the cool scented air of southern paths through the pines. These books breathe. They are not overloaded, saturated, with dead, vain erudition.[2]

At least such setting comes to mind if a publisher, and not only one, is now asking to mention, when inserting tables, matrices etc. something like “own calculation”…. – next step up the ladder of mental tyranny: every sentence requires a footnote: this sentence had been written by myself …. .

The policing ideas are surely not coming from mentally healthy people, who’re are able to make use of the qualification the surely have. It may be that they are actually not coming from people at all – instead emerging from weird apparatuses, independent as a quasi-demon, reminding of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice:

Sir, my need is sore.

Spirits that I’ve cited

My commands ignore.

To the lonely

Corner, broom!

Hear your doom.

As a spirit

When he wills, your master only

Calls you, then ‘tis time to hear it.[3]

More boxing …, the concept against which I argue since some time ….

What is astonishing is that we factually – we = at least too many in academia, factually = in too many cases of writing, administratively and political-economically defining performance – simply accept the bending of law, perhaps with a grumble and an acquaintance, more or less certain within, but factually without counter-censorship and without demanding two, nevertheless, generally valid legal principles:

  • the acceptance of innocence until proven otherwise
  • the obligation of the plaintiff to prove the accusation

It is much safer to celebrate civil liberties than to defend them; it is much safer to defend them as a formal right than to use them in a politically effective way. Even those who would most willingly subvert these liberties usually do so in their very name. It is easier still to defend someone else’s right to have used them years ago than to have something yourself to say now and to say it now forcibly. The defense of civil liberties – even of their practice a decade ago – has become the major concern of many liberal and once leftward scholars. All of which is a safe way of diverting intellectual effort from the sphere of political reflection and demand.[4]


Truth Or: About Clouds and Roads

In the piece The Roads Around Pisa, Karen Blixen wrote

How difficult it is to know the truth. I wonder if it is really possible to be absolutely truthful when you are alone. Truth, like time, is an idea arising from, and dependent upon, human intercourse. What is the truth about a mountain in Africa that has no name and not even a footpath across it? The truth about this road is that it leads to Pisa, and the truth about Pisa can be found within books written and read by human beings. What is the truth about a man on a desert island? And I, I am like a man on a desert island.[5]

Why? Why can truth be characterised this way, as part of walking together one road? And why can one feel this way, deserted, (a)lone(ly) on an island? One reason behind it will be that we are not really acknowledging the fact that we are ourselves only by others – call it ubuntu if you need a name, though remain aware of the fact that it is probably a term that can only be understood by people who ubuntued instead of growing up Western-ly enlightened (or should we say something like who Montesquieu-ed?).[6]To ubuntu then is about knowing the wings of freedom it gives, also feeling the marks of strangulation that come with it, and knowing that no arithmetic sum can be gained to measure its value.

Truth, as much as it is about ‘objective facts’ which includes social facts as approached by Durkheim in sociology, existing independent of any consciousness, is importantly also itself a social fact, on the one hand by being result of our common action, on the other hand by being important element of and for our common action: experiences we have – together with others, or at least together in one space – are the foundation of further experience, further action, further contest, be it contest between people or between people and the objective environment which itself is changed depending on how we approach it, what we do with our experience of it. Though this may sound difficult, it actually is trivial. Go out one of these winter days, just wearing a t-shirt, at the side of your friend who is properly wrapped up … . You will start to feel cold (most likely at least); s/he will say that you are silly, you will physically eventually suffer, may have to stay in bed, put up the heating etc. … it will not necessarily be warmer when you go for a walk next time but, as small as it may be, there is some contribution also from here with regards to global warming. So, yes, there is some reason for saying

If a butterfly flip its wings in one part of the world it is able to cause storm in another part!

Now, there is also some link from here to the referencing. Without denying in any way the need for proper referencing, it is easy to see that it is simply breeding lies when it is getting over the top. The following illustration tries to show this:



Of course, any knowledge comes from somewhere, and thus anything we state comes from somewhere. This ‘somewhere’ develops by way of differentiation, roles historically and individually into some form of formal education [which is also the education in form(alitie)s], cascades up the stream of higher education in humanities and finally evaporating into general knowledge, be it general academic knowledge or ‘general literacy’. Thinking, writing, discoursing surely needs referencing. However, it only makes sense if it is about a definite reference as quote or paraphrasing or reflection of … in the sense of ‘see’ and ‘conferatur’. It does not make sense as matter of claiming ‘property’ where t property does already exist = it does to make sense to say: this is said by me (there are exceptions: to reclaim property: “This is what I said, the other took it from me.” or: “This is what I say, even if all others do not accept it.”)  Strangely enough, publishers and academics are easily accepting extremely sloppy references taking the form of name and date stated, without letting the reader know why they forget mentioning the ‘cf.’ It equally accepted to refer to …, let’s say

Kant, Immanuel. Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. Trans. John T. Goldthwait. University of California Press, 1961, 2003

This had been taken on the 12/15/18 8:25:45 AM from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant

@ from Wikipedia and similar things can be found in books, journals … – oh folks, the Kant who wrote the ‘observations’ in 1764, published 1799 in English language was in 1861 simply dead as a doornail.

– Over-Referencing is surly not much more than an intellectual masturbation of pity bourgeois, not knowing much, having read a lot and completely lacking the courage to say the little they may think quasi-independently, or lacking the courage to think independently …. Or is it about pushing academics – and all of us – finally to take Whithead’s words in Process and Reality

The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradi- tion is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

literally. That is surely equally misleading …

Only Problems of Academics?

As such, these are indeed problems of academics – and let’s face it: many widely abused their power by reputation, the lack of control of performance and ethical standards, one of the “highlights” the former minister for education resigning over PhD-plagiarism.

This is of course already something that goes beyond the academic world and effects everybody – as matter of such people being in positions where they decide for instance over the future of our children. Coincidentally, while writing, I receive a mail from the Council of Europe, talking about

Students as suspects? – The challenges of counter-radicalisation policies in education in the Council of Europe member states

But there is even more to it: it is the spirit that pervades in such attitudes: such request for permanent proof, such spirit of distrust is lurking behind so many forms we have to complete, so many authorisations we need – it is the spirit of tyranny Hannah Arendt was talking about starting from the assumption that we are all criminals while giving us an opportunity to show that we are not – it is the opportunity within a strangulated public of a surveillance state.

Far reaching, indeed, and a matter of The Struggle for Law, about which Rudolph Jhering writes[7]and which is really relevant even when it comes to The Tip and how to deal with it – as the same author writes[8]

Ob die hier gemachten Vorschläge Aussicht auf Verwirklichung haben? Man giebt uns Deutschen Schuld, dass wir einen Stein im Wege, an dem wir uns stossen, ruhig liegen lassen — Jeder verwünsche ihn, aber Niemand nähme sich die Mühe, ihn aus dem Wege zu räumen oder, wenn er für ihn allein zu schwer sei, Andere zur Hülfe herbeizuziehen. Das Trinkgelderunwesen ist ein solcher Stein, Jeder klagt über ihn, aber Jeder lässt ihn liegen. Der Vorwurf, den wir gegen den Stein erheben, richtet sich gegen uns selber; wer eine Unsitte bloss verwünscht, anstatt für seinen Theil mitzuwirken, sie zu beseitigen, klagt sich selber an — für das Bestehen einer Unsitte ist Jeder, der nicht den Muth hat, ihr entgegenzutreten, selber mit verantwortlich, Niemand hat das Recht, sich über sie zu beklagen, als derjenige, der sich das Zeugniss ausstellen kann, seinerseits Alles gethan zu haben, was in seinen Kräften stand, um ihr ein Ende zu machen. Jeder meiner Leser kann sich damit in Bezug auf das Trinkgelderunwesen sein eigenes Urtheil sprechen.

Thanks to Deepl.com

Do the proposals made here have any prospect of being implemented? We Germans are blamed for leaving a stone in our way lying quietly – everyone desires it, but no one takes the trouble to remove it or, if it is too heavy for him alone, to bring others to help. The unbeing of tips is such a stone, everyone complains about it, but everyone leaves it lying. The reproach which we make against the stone is directed against ourselves; he who merely curses a bad habit, instead of cooperating for his part in eliminating it, accuses himself – everyone who does not have the courage to oppose it is himself responsible for the existence of a bad habit; no one has the right to complain about it, as he who can give the testimony has done everything in his power to put an end to it. Each of my readers can thus speak his own judgment with regard to the tipping misdemeanour.

(Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator)

The Moral of the Story is …

Kant, in his Metaphysics of Ethics summarised it in a short sentence – the simple thing, of which it is so difficult to get it right:

… he who first makes himself a worm, does not complain when he trampled under foot.


[1]    Arendt, Hannah, 1958: Vita Activa oder Vom Tätigen Leben; München/Zurich: Piper, 1981, new edition: 215; translated from the German edition; the 2nd English edition: Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Introduction by Margaret Canovan; Chicago: University of Chicago Press; second edition 1998 does not contain the passage in this way

[2]    Passi di: Frederic Gros. “A Philosophy of Walking”. Apple Books.

[3]    Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1797: Zauberlehrling [The Sorcerer’s Apprentice]; translation by Edwin Zeydel

[4]    Mills, C. Wright, 1956: The Power Elite; Oxford University Press, 2000: 334

[5]     Passi di: Isak Dinesen. “Seven Gothic Tales. Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)”. Apple Books

[6]     Of course, making such statement evokes the need to qualify it, stating at least: such characterisations have to be taken with care, they are based on out limited knowledge, they are ideal-types/idealisations and as such they are also based on the current view, neglecting for instance several ‘ubuntu qualities’ and also individualist aspects in both our histories.

[7]    Jhering, Rudolph von, 1879: The Struggle for Law

[8]    Jhering, Rudolph von, 1882: Das Trinkgeld


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