BROOK BROTHERS, LAO TZU & AND THE MANUFACTURE OF COOL
Allegory of Vanity, by Antonio de Pereda, c. 1632 – 1636, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Viena
If a bowl contained two apples, one of which was later removed unbeknownst to an honest observer, he could tell the truth that the bowl contained two apples and simultaneously be incorrect and inaccurate because his truth was not inclusive of that development compelling him to refresh his understanding and adjust his tally.
Perhaps accuracy and correctness are situated well to consider transient phenomena, but it seems absurd, for instance, to say that a clock reading 2:59 p.m. is the enduring truth, when within 60 seconds it will say something else entirely. The clock does not exactly lie. It was correct when it said 2:59 p.m., but correctness is with respect to some external standard which is doubtless subject to change. The clock does not so much lie as issue information whose accuracy and relevance are extremely short-lived. We see this transience in financial data. At the time of this article’s first draft, financial tables reported the British Pound at 150% of the American Dollar, and during an initial revision, the Pound was roughly twice the Dollar. In a subsequent review it had receded to about 170% and now it is liable to be something else altogether. Like currencies which are subject to speculation and rise and fall in value, fashionability is equally subject to change and we do not have to recede as far back as gowns that showed a woman’s ankles to find something, once scandalous, that now passes without mention.
The honest observer in our example was speaking truthfully, but his truth was no longer in conformity with the world outside his head. It might be fairer to reserve truth for more durable phenomena: that the Earth is spherical and that humans require oxygen to live.
What passes for truth may be the limit approaching constancy and untruth the illusory, so that the more enduring an idea, fact, or principle, the more true it is. As a reference point then, the more enduring, the more valuable. What is the value, after all, of following foot tracks in the dirt, sand, or leaves, moments before a torrential downpour?
But if standards and reference points keep changing how do we know what will endure? A perfectly new, good, and fast computer five years ago is considered old, slow, and obsolete today.This content is for members only. If you have a membership, please log in. If not, you can definitely get access! Our membership plans.
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