Pieper goes on to distinguish lying (mis-representing reality) from flattery (having any motive in speech other than aiming at truth), and it is this distinction I find most compelling. Lying as a tool of exploitation—understood in the context of political propaganda—is an obvious evil whose destruction is evident all around us. Flattery is a subtler evil whose insinuations debase our humanity while leaving us externally intact. Lying is the characteristic sin of Big Brother in Orwell’s 1984, and flattery is the characteristic sin of Brave New World. Any words that are spoken with the goal of achieving some end other than the communication of truth are flattery—even if they are actually true! The truth-content of the words is not the only component denoting their status as rightly-used language or wrongly-used language. Any abuse of words that debases their truthfulness or their intentions is, for Pieper, an "abuse."
Friday, December 20, 2019
Lying and Flattery
Amanda Patchin has an interesting discussion of Josef Pieper's 1974 booklet, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power at "Front Porch Republic":