Looking at the Facts

Brilliant essay by Bret Stephens in Time on our willingness to discard objectivity and principles once considered sacred (and how we can overcome that tendency), from the full text of his remarks for the Daniel Pearl memorial lecture, UCLA. And after you finish reading this, take a look at Local Nomad’s latest call for submissions.


We are not a nation of logicians.

I think it’s important not to dismiss the president’s reply [to a question from Bill O’Reilly about the validity of a claim by Trump] simply as dumb. We ought to assume that it’s darkly brilliant — if not in intention than certainly in effect. The president is responding to a claim of fact not by denying the fact, but by denying the claim that facts are supposed to have on an argument.

He isn’t telling O’Reilly that he’s got his facts wrong. He’s saying that, as far as he is concerned, facts, as most people understand the term, don’t matter: That they are indistinguishable from, and interchangeable with, opinion; and that statements of fact needn’t have any purchase against a man who is either sufficiently powerful to ignore them or sufficiently shameless to deny them — or, in his case, both.

If some of you in this room are students of political philosophy, you know where this argument originates. This is a version of Thrasymachus’s argument in Plato’s Republic that justice is the advantage of the stronger and that injustice “if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice.” Read more HERE.