Archive for June 24th, 2010

When We Wish

It is hard to find a coherent account, in any society which puts trust in oracles, of why they work or how they get access to the knowledge they divulge. To most people and peoples who believe them, however, they seem to be chinks in the wall of illusion, through which shafts of light penetrate from a world of truth that we cannot reach by our own efforts. They can be classified alongside other messengers of the gods—means of illumination, revelation, inspiration or instruction by which truth is declared. They belong to a huge and potent category of truth-finding techniques which thrive where truth is imagined as a repository in a world more or less inaccessible to an unaided enquirer: it can be unlocked only by being mediated and can be verified only on authority, for communications from unseen worlds may have nothing to do with truth. They may be delusions, demonically inspired; they may be neutral, like works of creative genius. When the Muses sang for Hesiod, the earliest Greek lyricist known by name, they warned him, “We know how to say many false things which seem true and to sing truly when we wish.”

—Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Truth

When I Worked

June 2010
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