2018 Most Philosophical Student in America

Ashwin Pillai, California.


Truth or Deceit: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?

Deceit exists only in opposition to truth; however, in a closed system of communication where deceit is oversaturated, truth becomes virtually impossible to determine. When evaluating the concept of truth and deceit, one must consider the role of these concepts within interpersonal communication. The concept of truth is the exchange of accurate information. Deceit, as a communicative concept, is an exchange of information in which truth is intentionally absent. Truth and deceit are so exceptionally important to society since information significantly changes human behavior.

Communication is the participation of individuals within the exchange of information; truth and deceit surround that participation. For a system of communication to properly and effectively function, accurate information is a significant requirement. Consider the following examples. As David walks down the street, he learns that there is a massive, unavoidable sink hold ahead on this street. As a result of acquiring this information, David, like most other reasonable people, turns around and tries to find a different street. Knowledge, in this way, influences human behavior. If Sarah is misinformed and believes that the red light on stoplights indicated that she should proceed through an intersection, her interaction with the world would be improper and especially dangerous.

Truth is the necessary condition for proper interaction with the world. The quality which makes deceit so harmful is that it is intentional misinformation. The fact that deceit implies intention renders it a willing subversion of truth. By subverting truth, deceit undermines the system of communication itself. In many cases, simple acts of deceit cannot fully hide the truth because information comes from more than one source. The intentional subversion of one individual can be weeded out by the intentional honesty of many more. True difficulty presents itself when deceit becomes widespread.

Immanuel Kant explored this with the categorical imperative. He imagined a state of affairs in which deceit was universal and everyone lied, and he concluded that in that world, communication itself would become meaningless and cease to function. This result of deceit is not cimply confined to a hypothetical thought experiment; the United States of America witnessed this occurrence in its most recent presidential election. The cry of “FAKE NEWS!” was heard around the country, and news sources that were critical of candidates were labeled as deceptive. Ironically, this labeling was, in many cases, deception. However, in many cases, the label of “fake news” held true. Hyper-sensational article headlines on social media were the only information some of the populace took to be true. As more and more sources were deemed deceptive by candidates, some supporters of those candidates stopped accepting even the most rigorously verified facts.

Deceit has a greater impact upon society than truth. While truth founds the exchange of information, deceit destroys the system of communication. In a society oversaturated with deceit, truth itself becomes meaningless, and communication ceases to function. Deceit, as a destructive force, subverts every aspect of truth in society and its effect on communication is the greatest impact of all.


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