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Veritas, Goddess of Truth

May 8, 2016 1 Comment

Harvard motto

Harvard motto

In ancient Rome the goddess Veritas ruled truth and sincerity. In Greece she was known as Altheia, and is mentioned in Aesops Fables:

Aesop, Fables 531 (from Babrius 126) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.) :
“A man was journeying in the wilderness and he found Veritas [Aletheia, Truth] standing there all alone. He said to her, ‘Ancient lady, why do you dwell here in the wilderness, leaving the city behind?’ From the great depths of her wisdom, Veritas (Truth) replied, ‘Among the people of old, lies were found among only a few, but now they have spread throughout all of human society!’”
[N.B. This fable is preserved only in a Latin text. Aesop’s Aletheia (Truth personified) becomes Veritas in the Latin.]

Her father is Saturn in Rome and Zeus in Greece.  One creation story found in Aesop’s Fables tells us how she was created by Prometheus along with her arch enemy Mendacium.  She is the mother of virtue.  Her name is often included in mottos.  Harvard’s motto is simply Veritas.  The pursuit of truth was considered to be an essential part of Roman citizens’ duty.  To discern and tell the truth is a full time job.   Forgery and subterfuge are everywhere and always will be.  The difference between Veritas and Mendacium is feet.  Mendacity literally has not feet on which to stand.  Veracity walks away with conviction.

Aesop, Fables 530 (from Phaedrus Appendix 5) :
“Prometheus, that potter who gave shape to our new generation, decided one day to sculpt the form of Veritas [Aletheia, Truth], using all his skill so that she would be able to regulate people’s behaviour. As he was working, an unexpected summons from mighty Jupiter [Zeus] called him away. Prometheus left cunning Dolus (Trickery) in charge of his workshop, Dolus had recently become one of the god’s apprentices. Fired by ambition, Dolus (Trickery) used the time at his disposal to fashion with his sly fingers a figure of the same size and appearance as Veritas [Aletheia, Truth] with identical features. When he had almost completed the piece, which was truly remarkable, he ran out of clay to use for her feet. The master returned, so Dolus (Trickery) quickly sat down in his seat, quaking with fear. Prometheus was amazed at the similarity of the two statues and wanted it to seem as if all the credit were due to his own skill. Therefore, he put both statues in the kiln and when they had been thoroughly baked, he infused them both with life: sacred Veritas (Truth) walked with measured steps, while her unfinished twin stood stuck in her tracks. That forgery, that product of subterfuge, thus acquired the name of Mendacium [Pseudologos, Falsehood], and I readily agree with people who say that she has no feet: every once in a while something that is false can start off successfully, but with time Veritas (Truth) is sure to prevail.”
[N.B. This fable is preserved only in a Latin text. Aesop’s Aletheia (Truth personified) becomes Veritas in the Latin.]

These fables are useful to us during the campaign season during which a large part of our job is to distinguish truth from rhetorical and cultural beliefs.  It has never been more important for us to verify what we believe.

Cultural Delusion

January 19, 2013 4 Comments

Cultural mendacity is a flawed belief system taught and accepted by groups. Plato and Tennessee Williams were very concerned about this subject. Folklore and folk medicine, like belief in the chupacabra, is brought over from the past. Political and commercial propaganda is created daily to influence cultural habits. Pavlov trained his dog to be delusional, consistently. You are trained to think buying Fruit Loops on credit is a fine practice for your budget and your health. The political parties are training you to donate money to feed the status quo without even knowing what the status quo is.

Lance, the psycho bully, Armstrong needs to stand tall as a role model for all of history. Protesting too much is a classic sign of dishonesty. Willful blindness extends to all layers of our society. Most of it is not as harmless (not to indicate that these crimes were petty) as doping cyclists. Mortgage fraud and investment banking fraud, as yet to explained to the victims in clear terms, are examples of cultural delusion. Sick work ethics that ignore misdeeds and reward anti social behavior fall into this category as well. Systems are mendacious, but cultures are easily duped. Like Pavlov’s dog, groupthink salivates at the sound of the bell because it has been taught to associate the bell with food. Pavlov in this experiment plays the part of the government. The bell is congress. The dog is the tax paying citizen. The dog food cupboard is full of imaginary dog food, known as the budget. Mendacity is the system in which we live.

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