Path: news.voyager.net!clmx47.dial.voyager.net!user From: email@example.com (Jamie McCarthy) Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,talk.philosophy.misc,alt.fan.ernst-zundel Subject: What is truth? ...if you follow me. Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 15:02:48 -0400 Organization: Absence Software Lines: 160 Message-ID:
NNTP-Posting-Host: vixa.voyager.net Xref: news.voyager.net alt.revisionism:59342 talk.philosophy.misc:35375 Connoisseurs of the popular television show "The Simpsons" may be familiar with the episode where Bart gets hit by a car. The shyster lawyer tells them that they can "ching-ching-ching, cash in on this tragedy!" and is giving them a lesson on what to say on the stand for maximum payback, when little Lisa Simpson pipes up and reminds the lawyer that they'll be under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The lawyer responds: Yes, but what _is_ truth? ...if you follow me. Recall that at his 1988 trial, Ernst Zuendel was accused of publishing a pamphlet by Richard Harwood which he knew to be untrue. Part of Zuendel's defense was an attempt to prove that he was innocent of the charge because the only important statements in the pamphlet are statements of opinion. The following excerpt is from Lenski, Robert, _The Holocaust on Trial: the Case of Ernst Zundel_, Reporter Press, Decatur, Alabama, 1989. Bracketed ellipses and comments removed from the indented text are this author's; indented in the text, they are Lenski's. p. 235: CHAPTER SIX. WHAT IS TRUTH? p. 240: Next on the stand was Gary Botting. The contrast in styles (and substance) could scarcely have been greater. Botting, in his mid-forties, was elegantly dressed, sophisticated, the owner of a stratospheric IQ. [...] The Oxford-born Botting had a cirriculum vitae which would have raised eyebrows in fifteenth-century Florence. Answering [Zuendel's defense attorney] Christie's opening questions, the still youthful-looking Botting mentioned noteworthy achievements in law, journalism, philosophy, literature, history, the social and natural sciences, public and media relations, film, computers, editing and publishing, college administration, and religion. Botting, who also testified at the 1985 Zundel trial, may play a large role in Canada's free speech movement in the years to come. Here, he would limit his remarks to a line-by-line analysis of the Harwood pamphlet in terms of statements of fact and statements of opinion. p. 243: And so testimony laboriously continued for the remainder of the day. Christie and Botting resumed their examination of Harwood on the following day, Thursday, March 31. The complexity of much of this testimony is suggested by an exchange which occurred just before the lunch break. It involved Harwood's discussion of Anne Frank. Christie read: "The truth about the Anne Frank diary was first revealed in 1959 by the Swedish journal _Fria Ord_." Now, that sounds like a statement of fact if I've ever heard one. But then, I'm not the owner of a stratospheric IQ: "The search for truth is always a subjective thing," said Botting. "You can assume from that this is opinion." [Prosecuting attorney] Pearson objected: "I don't know what makes this witness qualified to say that the search for truth is always a subjective enterprise." "Well," Judge Thomas said to Pearson, "I think you're going to have to deal with this in cross-examination, [because] it's apparent to me there is a fundamental difference of opinion here." "Now," Thomas continued, turning to the witness, "whether [or not] the search for truth is subjective, what the Crown Attorney is saying is that that statement is put forth by that author as an assertion of fact. You disagree, obviously." Botting: Yes, I do. Judge Thomas: Could you tell me why? "We get into a question of epistemology and basic philosophy," said Botting. "We get into Cartesian analysis and a whole range of things which obviously are impractical for a court to consider." Judge Thomas: I think we will have to leave it at that, Mr. Pearson. Pearson: Your Honor, what I submit in light of that last answer [is that] this witness is no longer qualified to do what he's been purporting to do since the beginning of his testimony, which is to distinguish between fact and opinion in that he has now said, as I understand his answer, there is no such thing as fact. Christie suggested that "my friend should wait to insult the witness at a later point," to which Pearson replied, "I meant no insult whatsoever to Professor Botting." Judge Thomas advised Pearson that his role -- later -- would be to "highlight" Botting's approach to truth "for the jury, and the jury can [attach] whatever weight they wish to his evidence." Later, Christie noted the frequent assertions made by Harwood along the lines of "this is a historical fact" or "this is the truth." "Does that mean," he asked, "that it states or claims to be a statement of fact?" Botting replied, "It's the author's opinion...his [subjective] view of the world." pp. 245-6: In one example, Pearson read from Harwood that so many Jews had emigrated from European countries other than Poland during a certain period of time. "I suggest to you, sir," he said, "that that purports to be a statement of fact." "The fact is this is opinion," said Botting. The individual figures may be facts, but the analysis makes the total an opinion. Pearson: Just so I'm clear on this, if I say Bill had two cats, that's a statement of fact. If I say Jane has two cats, that's a statement of fact. If I say Bill and Jane have four cats, in your view, that's a statement of opinion. Is that what you're saying? Botting: It is as good as the premise that goes into it. If, for example, there's also Sam with his cats and Joe with his, and they are not mentioned in the context of what you said and yet they are relevant in some way, then the conclusion that you've drawn that there are, say, four cats in the room in a materially different conclusion from fact. It's an opinion that -- Pearson: Let's deal with the conclusion I've drawn, which is that Bill and Jane have four cats. You're saying that that is a statement of opinion and not a statement of fact? Botting: I am saying that if you know that you have covered all your bases, that is to say that there are only two cats from one person, two cats from another person, so that you have four cats, and you also state there are no other cats anywhere in the room, that you can effectively concluse that that is a fact. But, the process of making that kind of analysis usually is dependent on every single detail being present. If there's one premise missing or if there's one premise that is an opinion, then the conclusion must be an opinion. -- Jamie McCarthy http://www.absence.prismatix.com/jamie/ firstname.lastname@example.org Co-Webmaster of http://www.nizkor.org/ Hate mail will be posted.
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