Honesty, Conflicts, and the Telling of History: More Case Studies

Thomas L. Carson

in Lying and Deception

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199577415
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722813 | DOI:
Honesty, Conflicts, and the Telling of History: More Case Studies

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The main thesis of this chapter is that deception and dishonesty can create or aggravate conflicts and sometimes lead to disastrous consequences and, that, therefore, this sort of deception and dishonesty is morally wrong. The chapter provides a detailed account the myth of the “stab in the back” (Dolchstosslegende) and Germany's defeat in WWI. The widespread acceptance of this myth by the German people was one of the central causes of the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. The chapter discusses other cases of deception and lying that distorted the historical record and led to very bad consequences; the examples given here are the dishonest version of history defended by neo‐Confederates in the aftermath of the US Civil War and lies denying the crimes of Joseph Stalin by the New York correspondent Walter Duranty. Then the chapter explicates the important concept of “half‐truths.” Half‐truths mislead people and distort the truth but fall short of lying (often, they fall short of deception). Even when it falls short of lying and deception, endorsing half‐truths is often a form of intellectual dishonesty. The chapter discusses several cases in which half‐truths have distorted the historical record and thereby aggravated social/political conflicts. The concept of half‐truths has widespread application in personal relationships. The chapter concludes by offering a brief account of the virtue of intellectual honesty (with particular attention to intellectual honesty about political questions).

Keywords: lying about history; deception about history; stab‐in‐the back myth; WWI; Hindenburg and Ludendorff; nazism; holocaust; neo‐confederate historians; half‐truths; half‐truths and conflict; intellectual honesty

Chapter.  12414 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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