Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Invention of Lying - Discussion questions.



From our latest film in "Philosophy through Film", discussion questions:

Are we better off as a society or culture in a world that allows no form of deception or communication of falsehood whatsoever? Ways to approach this:

1. In “IOL” we see that the practice of thoroughgoing honesty has permeated every aspect of life in that world. There are no fictional films, and presumably no fictional literature. Is this a world worth living in?

2. People regularly tell others what they really think of them. There are no white lies in this world. Is human nature adaptable enough to allow for this, or are people too prone to offense or depression given such brutal honesty? You can answer this question with regard to the character “Frank”.

3. How much does hope and aspiration depend on self deception, or, at the very least, thinking rosily about one’s self and one’s future? Are we more likely to succeed if we have these things operable? If so, is this a case for deception of self or others?

4. If creating fiction is impossible or unacceptable in this world, what about discourse concerning the future? Technically speaking such talk is about things that are not the case. More precisely, about things that are not the case YET. They may be about things that you intend to do in the future, (say you make a promise to meet someone next Tuesday for lunch) but you have to admit you do not KNOW that the future will turn out as you think (that you will be able to keep that promise). So, given that you are not sure about the future, can you in good conscience talk about it or make that promise? Can you, in good conscience make any predictions in the IOL world? Why or why not?

5. Similarly, social progress, political and technological, does seem to depend on aspirations, predictions, rosy thinking and talking about things ‘that are not’. Would these be impossible in this world?

6. Advertisement in the IOL world allows neither deception nor even mild departure from truth. Good or bad?

7. A presupposition of the film is that the “big lie” Mark tells about ‘the man in the sky’ is not true (or at least he does not know it to be true, and is lying in presenting it as if it were true). Be that as it may, the big lie does much work toward alleviating suffering of those that live in that world. Mark’s mother dies at peace due to the story.

Late in the film, Mark’s big lie has taken root around the world, and given hope to millions, yet he believes it is false. Is he obligated to tell the rest of the world what he tells Anna at the end of the film? Why or why not? Better yet, given that word spread in the first instance, when he initially fibbed to his mother, won’t that word spread again, assuming that Anna will tell others? What are the likely effects of this? Positive or negative?



8. Friedrich Nietzsche argued that “God is dead,” that is, that over time, and particularly in the modern world, the plausibility of traditional theism has become less and less. He also argued, on this basis that there would be a general loss of ethical/philosophical anchorage in the 20th century and beyond; that man would feel more lost and rudderless than he did when belief in God was more feasible. Nietzsche warned that there would be tremendous negative social repercussions, the form of some of which he anticipated, (nihilistic movements, violent movements based upon ‘scientistic’ premises like the Nazi eugenic views, or the dialectical materialism of the Marxists) movements that would try to replace the empty space left by God. Is Nietzsche right about all this? Is belief in God now untenable? On what basis can objective values be grounded if not in theism?

9. Is ethical warfare possible without deception? Can governments function, abide by their side of the implicit or explicit social contracts they have with their citizens, in a world like that which is presented in "The Invention of Lying"? (Remember, NO one lies or decieves in this world. No one. Not even Brave Sir Julian. Everything is out on the table. Everything.)

Is such a world preferable to the one we have?