The Liar's Tale: A History of Falsehood

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9780393323610: The Liar's Tale: A History of Falsehood

"A book too disturbing to be ignored."?Booklist, boxed review

Lies are often so subtle, so deftly woven into easily acceptable truths, that we can fail to recognize them. Turning Sisela Bok's defense of truth in her book Lying on its head, Jeremy Campbell argues that deception should no longer be seen as artificial or deviant, but as a natural part of our world. Beginning with a study of evolutionary biology and the necessity (and ultimate value) of deceit in the animal kingdom, Campbell asks the difficult question of whether falsehood might, in fact, be instinctual. Guiding the reader through classical philosophy to more contemporary thinkers such as Freud and Nietzsche, Campbell links a multitude of disciplines and ideas in lucid and engaging prose. Unsettling some of our most firmly held beliefs about truth and ethics, The Liar's Tale is a riveting work of intellectual history. "This challenging romp through the underbelly of intellectual history...is fascinating and troublesome."?New York Times Book Review "[A] beautifully written book....a crisp and remarkably readable discussion."?John Frohnmayer, The Wilson Quarterly

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About the Author:

Jeremy Campbell is the author of The Liar’s Tale, Winston Churchill’s Afternoon Nap, and The Grammatical Man. He is the Washington correspondent for the Evening Standard and lives in Washington, DC.

From Publishers Weekly:

Despite its subtitle, the book is less a history of falsehood than of the concept of truth, with falsehood as an important corollary. Campbell's treatise suffers from a weak introduction that fails to set forth its plan, and from an unconvincing first two chapters on Darwin and the theme of nature as liar. After that, a methodical and enlightening march from antiquity to the present begins, analyzing notions of truth from pre-Socratics to postmodernists. The ancient Greek concept of the Logos, which guaranteed a fit between the human mind and the order of the universe, is effectively contrasted with the Sophists' denial of a "natural fit between mind, language, and reality." Though the chapter on medieval thought is inadequate, Campbell handles modern thinkers gracefully, following rival theories of truth from Descartes, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to Freud, Moore, Russell, Saussure and Wittgenstein. The last few chapters spotlight postmodern thinkers (notably Barthes, Derrida, Foucault and Rorty) who have dismissed the distinction between truth and falsehood, promoting values such as pleasure and imagination while fostering the idea that "truth as well as falsehood are as dead as God." Campbell seems ambivalent toward the alleged death of truth: he appears equally unsatisfied by philosophical attempts to defend truth and with today's "almost unprecedented tolerance of falsehood." It would have been nice if Campbell had made his own position clearer. Even so, the book is a valuable account of how truth and falsehood got where they are today. (Aug.)Forecast: While the back of the galley promises that this book "turns Sissela Bok's Lying" the classic walk-through on a variety of moral quandaries "on its head," don't look for that book's displacement from the shelf. As a pointedly historical text, this book won't capture the imaginations of everyday readers (and liars), but may sell slowly and steadily as a solid popular account of some difficult thinkers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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