Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ponder Post 18: Truth

'Wisdom is truth that consoles.' Roger Scruton.
Discuss at length and with irritating erudition.


  1. Different things console different personality types in different cultures, so Scruton's definition of wisdom relativises wisdom to a subjective concept.

  2. Gordon:

    Ah, you scientists. Wisdom is not knowledge and is not even always compatible with knowledge. Coming to appreciate at the profoundest level why your wife is the most beautiful woman in the world does not suggest it would be a good idea to enter her in the Miss World contest.

    The late Roberston Davies once gave a terrific commencement address to some high school graduates arguing how futile it is to try and ground life in a search for happiness, which he described an a feline condition that would run away from you if you sought it out directly, but might snuggle up unexpectedly if you ignored it. He counselled them to set their sights on wisdom instead. They were much awed, gave him a standing ovation and then went out looking for some fun.

  3. At the risk of sounding very naive how does Scruton or any of us know what truth is? If he means empirical truth doesn't it depend on the tools we have at a given time? Newton's laws do not work at the speed of light but how was he to know? Scruton has said that "A writer who says there is no truth or that truth is merely relative is asking you to believe him. So don't." Why should I believe Roger Scruton?

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  5. This implies a pre-determined sense of self that is consoled in its sense of self by the wisdom it accumulates or encounters; in other words the wisdom hasn't altered the person in any appreciable way, it has merely been consoled. Life is seen as inherently disappointing, the best that one can achieve being reconciled to this half-life state.
    This need of consoling strikes me as weak and a little embarrassing. Who is this self that needs to be consoled and why? Someone who has accepted a life or notion of reality far lesser than the Real, and is sustained in this unreality by the second hand glimpses of Wisdom, or the echoes that emanate from the truly wise, who themselves are in no need of consoling. It is true that were this person in need of consoling deprived of this bridge to the Real via art, or the truth that consoles, then his life would be immeasurably worse, so in that sense Scruton is correct.
    By contrast to this consoling, Andrie Tarkovsky wrote that "an artist's purpose is to provide a spiritual jolt", a far more invigorating and healthy idea.

  6. A pert little fibber named Scruton,
    Is never high or falutin,
    Though to his wisdom I aspire,
    I never desire,
    That The Truth should emerge as a putain...

    Wisdom is nothing but the necessary acknowledgment of a terrible truth! But Roger wants to make an omelette without braking eggs!


  7. And on a related point, Andrew, >If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?<

    Truth or Wisdom?

  8. Bravo! Someone give that man a beard, he's clearly in desperate need of something to stroke. "A man never reaches that dizzy height of wisdom that he can no longer be led the nose, particularly when his nose is framed by a false moustache and a pair of Groucho Marx glasses" - Mark Twain

  9. Well there are consolations and then there are consolations. Boethius wrote The Consolations of Philosophy while in prison, awaiting his execution (i think he was beaten to death with a club?): he had nothing to hope for, except a Stoic lack of fuss.

    On one level, 'consolation' is the equivalent of having a nice vacuous thriller to read when waiting 10 hours for a plane. But if you see all of life as an inevitable and generally bad affair, Schopenhauer-like, then anything that makes life slightly less shit falls into this benign category.

    There is a curious 'consolation' in reading something that seems true, that is immediate & doesn't entail compliance or obvious transformation; the literary equivalent to when i took shelter from the rain in a Venetian cafe and found myself sitting next to two obviously English people and chatting for once in English - it's a recognition of sorts, and that is consolation enough, a sense that others have been in this strange country and thought it strange indeed.

  10. a bit late for the crackers, I fear. you might be able to winkle it in with a modicum of dexterity.

    wisdom is pitkin, big in albania.

  11. Wisdom may be truth, but since when did the truth console?

    1. I don't love you any more
    2. Your bum looks big in that
    3. I never liked you
    4. You've sort of lost the plot
    5. You're not as young as you used to be
    6. Your writing stinks

  12. "The scrotum is truth that consoles." Roger Wisdom

  13. At first I misread that as "Woman is the truth that consoles." Roger Scruton missed a much more consoling truth.

  14. Wisdom is truth that consoles. It says it. Wisdom is the truth, not facts or science. Wisdom is the amalgam of what can be - what need be known in life. And it is a consolatory feeling - to know one's limits, to be wise. One cannot know everything and life need not be about knowing - or, rather, finding out.

    It is the balm on ignorance and human failings. A form of prayer.