[ilds] Seeking the Truth

William Apt billyapt at gmail.com
Sat Sep 25 10:09:01 PDT 2010


I guess the best analogy is found typically in criminal trials. For example,
witnesses truly believe they saw things they later are surprised to learn
they did not see:  hence the relativity of truth, which supports LD's
thesis.  But that does not apply uniformly in life generally. Truth usually
can be determined objectively and conclusively in most matters:  there are
just times, however, when we think we know truth, based on our relative
viewpoints.  Although LD seemed to posit it as a firm principle, his notion
of truth cannot exist in every situation.  To say that it does would be, as
you say, poetic nonsense.  I believe, rather, that LD's notion is a valid
concept applicable under given circumstances, and  do not believe someone
like Judt could argue with that.  I also don't think that LD believed that
truth was *always* relative or illusory.  If he did, then he wouldn't have
taken umbrage with critics who disparaged his work. Would not their relative
viewpoints be as based in "truth" as his own?


On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 3:50 PM, Bruce Redwine
<bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>wrote:

> Billy,
> I agree.  But my question is, did Lawrence Durrell take himself "literally"
> or seriously when he or his spokesmen commented on the relativity of truth?
>  I think he did.  Obviously, I cannot speak for Tony Judt, but my guess is
> that he would have considered Durrell's statements re truth a lot of
> literary or fashionable nonsense, highly seductive because of the
> magnificent poetry, but nonsense nonetheless.
> Bruce
>  On Sep 24, 2010, at 1:04 PM, William Apt wrote:
>  Bruce:
> If truth is, as LD suggests, illusory, then anything can be justified:
> including bad art as good art.  We can't take poets literally about
> everything...
> On Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 1:25 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
> > wrote:
>> Tony Judt recently died (1948-2010).  British born and educated, Judt was
>> a major historian of modern Europe, in particular the intellectual and
>> political tradition in post-war France.  He was also Jewish; as a youth he
>> worked in a kibbutz.  He was an early supporter of the State of Israel and
>> later a strong critic of the same.  He wrote frequently for *The New York
>> Review of Books.  *In the previous issue of *NYRB* (30 Sept. 2010; link
>> below), Timothy Garton Ash, of Oxford and Stanford, has written a
>> remembrance of Judt.  One section reads, "There are, broadly speaking, two
>> kinds of polemical intellectuals.  There are those for whom the taking of a
>> controversial position is primarily a matter of personal peacock display,
>> factional or clique, hidden agendas, score-settling, or serial, knee-jerk
>> revisionism.  Then there are those who, while not without personal
>> motivations and biases, are fundamentally concerned with seeking the truth.
>>  Tony Judt was of the latter kind.  Sharp and cutting his pen could be, but
>> his work was always about seeking the truth as best we can" (p. 6).
>> Lawrence Durrell might be called a "polemical intellectual."  In his early
>> years, he certainly thought of himself as one, so his 1959 Preface to *The
>> Black Book* testifies:  "a two-fisted attack on literature by an angry
>> young man of the thirties" (p. 9; London 1938, 1982).  In view of statements
>> such as "Humility!  The *last trap* that awaits the ego in search of
>> absolute truth" *(Justine,* p. 242) or "Truth is what most contradicts
>> itself in time" *(Balthazar,* p. 23), I wonder what L. Durrell would have
>> had to say about anyone who devoted his or her life to "seeking the truth?"
>>  Wasted?  Mistaken?  Wrongheaded?  Foolhardy?  And conversely, what would
>> Judt have thought of LD?  Mistaken?  Wrongheaded?  I don't know if TJ read
>> LD, but it seems likely that he did, given the breadth of his learning.
>> Bruce
>> www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/aug/20/tony-judt-1948-2010/
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