Channeling Pontius Pilate, Giuliani has claimed that “truth isn’t truth,” and then clarified this puzzling assertion by explaining that “truth is relative.”
This has been the occasion of considerable merriment. Eugene Robinson trenchantly observes, “Whenever the Trump administration ends, we already have its shameful epitaph: ‘Truth isn’t truth.’”
Alexandra Petri amplifies Rudy’s thinking:
The thing you have to understand is that there is nothing to testify about. Certainly, objective reality does not exist. None of my actions have consequences because there is no world outside myself. That is why I work for the Trump administration. (Which does not, of course, exist — a fact that is a constant balm to the consciences of those who work there, assuming they can be said to work for a thing whose existence is in doubt, and assuming they possess consciences.)
You, Chuck, are, I believe, limited by the notion that we share a frame of reference. That what one of us does affects another. This is, of course, untrue. …
All I know is the line between law and crime, between truth and untruth, between reality and fantasy — there is no line. They are infinitely fungible. Everything is real, or, perhaps, more simply, nothing is real. This is a belief system that the president and I share, although he is of course not real, merely a cruel joke concocted by my mind, like a dream metaphor that feels too on-the-nose. (I often have dreams that are too pointed; flying, falling, mainly falling. I have not troubled myself to understand them.) …
I snap my fingers — the wall exists already! It is beautiful and tall. I close my eyes; my hands become enormous, large enough to engulf entire cities. I merely wish, and I am an expert upon any subject. The instant I cease to recollect the existence of Puerto Rico, it ceases to be a problem. I am the measure of all things. When I say that there are good people on all sides, it becomes so. Global warming is, of course, not real, because, again, nothing exists. …
Maybe there is no morality or law. Does the Constitution exist? Is not the existence of any kind of law or truth not the greatest lie of all?
Our actions have no consequences, and we move aimlessly in a void. How do I sleep at night? How do you know I am not sleeping now?
The story, as translated by Lin Yutang, goes like this:
“Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called the transformation of material things.”