Q/A: Political Truth

Handling Truth: Navigating the Riptides of Rhetoric, Religion, Reason, and Research (2012) by William Melvin Gardner.

Question:  Is “political truth” a contradiction in terms?

Answer: Some people refuse to apply the word truth to politics, but no less a document than the Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths [italics added] to be self evident….” The political positions that followed were affirmed by 56 of our Founding Fathers and defended in the Revolutionary War—but were these political assertions really true? In a secular democracy, political truths must pass no test of scriptural doctrine, logical analysis, or scientific research. They need pass only the tests of judgment that result from rhetorical debate and persuasion.  Senators and Representatives decide, after formal debate and discussion, which assertions should be accepted as true. There is no practical alternative. We cannot cede the final decisions of government to theologians, philosophers, or scientists. We must rely on politicians to discover the truth.

 

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