When politicians lie: reflections on truth, politics and patriotism

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  • Published 20040907
  • ISBN: 9780733314537
  • Extent: 268 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm)

SIMONE WEIL SAID in her book The Need for Roots (Routledge and Paul, 1952) that truth is “a need of the soul”. She went on to say: “The need for truth is a need more sacred than any other need. Yet it is never mentioned. One feels afraid to read once one has realised the quantity and monstrousness of the material falsehoods paraded in even the books of the most reputable authors. Thereafter one reads as though one were drinking from a contaminated well.”

Weil was a deeply religious woman but one need not be religious in order to appreciate her use of the words “sacred” and “soul”. Instead of thinking of the soul as an immaterial entity, perhaps, or as in other ways affected by religious doctrine, it is better to think of how we speak of soul-destroying work or of affliction that can lacerate a person’s soul or even of soul music. Weil often quoted the ancient Greek saying, that: “a man loses half his soul the day he becomes a slave”. We do not need to locate such ways of speaking in a religious context in order to understand them fully. To see that they still work for us, try substituting “psyche” for “soul”. “Self” or “personality” will fare no better. “Soul” appears to take us to deeper things.

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