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The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics (Richard Lectures) Hardcover – May 10, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Richard Lectures
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press (May 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813929725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813929729
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,614,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Many works have dealt with lying and with politics, and some have dealt with the two themes together. But nobody has done quite what Jay does. He gives us an erudite survey of much of the literature on lying since Plato, then offers us a tour of the literature on ‘the political,’ and then, finally, brings the two into confrontation with each other. It is possible that this is Jay’s best book. In any case, it will surely become a primary reference point for anyone who wants to think seriously about lies and lying.

(Allan Megill, University of Virginia author of Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: A Contemporary Guide to Practice)

Erudite.... [A] fascinating history of politics’ enduring struggle with lying.

(The Nation)

About the Author

Martin Jay is the Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History at the University of California–Berkeley, and the author of The Dialectical Imagination and Downcast Eyes.


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Niklas Anderberg on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
THE VIRTUES OF MENDACITY was published in 2010 but professor of history Martin Jay says he has been working on it, on and off, for about ten years. Erudite and thoroughly researched, it covers a vast area. Although slender, this book is a virtual "Who's who" on mendacity from classical antiquity to present times. It's assumed that the reader is familiar with the basic tenets, as well as terminology, of Western philosophy. Furthermore, 50 of the 230 pages consist of notes and these are not just references but sometimes rather extensive reflections as well. This makes for a demanding read for the non-expert and non-native speaker alike.
This is thus not just a book about the ordinary mendacity of, say, Clinton or Bush; it's a philosophical overview from Plato and Saint Augustine to Machiavelli, from Hannah Arendt and Carl Schmitt to such modern political theorists as Rosenvallon and Frank Ankersmit. In many ways it might be rewarding to simultaneously read Jay's SONGS OF EXPERIENCE (2004), which offers discussions, albeit from a different angle, on some of these thinkers.
Contrary to what is commonly held (or so one might be excused for assuming), it's by no means clear that lying in politics is an altogether bad thing. Jay contrasts Plato's "noble lie" to the deontological ethics of Augustine, and Benjamin Constants consequentialist objections to the stern principles of Kant. Truthfulness is not the same thing as always telling the absolute Truth. The newly minted word "truthiness" springs to mind. Speaking of present-day phenomena, it's perhaps surprising that there are no references to WikiLeaks. But after the tremendous attention it has recently received, this might come as a relief of sorts.
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By Amazon Customer on August 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good thought provoking book. Read this and you,ll never look at a politician or the news- left or right- the same way again.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Brenno on December 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In light of the latest events involving Wikileaks and the cablegate, the competing claims on the need for accountability in politics, on the one hand, and the potentially undesired diplomatic and political effects of total transparency, on the other, acquire unprecedented relevance. Martin Jay's reflections on the potential virtues of mendacity offer a provocative and insightful contribution to a set of real, urgent problems, that could hardly have been more timely.
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6 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ACEMAN on May 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The previous reviewer of this book must not have a brain or brain cells and obviously misunderstood the title. Nonetheless, Martin Jay takes us on an intellectual tour of the context of a lie at many levels especially from ancient Greeks to the present political context in the US. Of course there are shades of lying and there are shades of how absolutist you wish to go in a lie. Best example is the Polish peasant who has allowed runaway Jews to live in his cellar. When the Nazi Jew haters show up and ask him if he is harboring Jews, what does he say, what would you say? For some the choice is absolute for others it's no so easy and for other's there seems to be a relativity to this behavioral dilemma. Moreover, when Nixon said that he wasn't a crook, did we really believe him, was he telling a lie? When Clinton said he did not have sex with "that women" Miss Lowinsky, he was caught in a lie, but was not convicted by the Congress. Why not? And when President Bush said that there were WMD in Iraq, was that a lie or was he misinformed. This books goes a long way to help us understand these very real issues about lying. And yet there are those absolutists who don't get the distinction between a "fact" and a "lie." And that is where most get hung up in our world of political correctness and wanting to make our politicians blameworthy. A brilliant essay examining something so basic to our political discourse that one wonder's why this book had not been written earlier.

ACEMAN
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