19
VACLAV HAVEL AND LIVING THE TRUTH

LIVING IN THE TRUTH

Vaclav Havel, poet, philosopher, playwright and now President of the Czech Republic, was imprisoned for four years by the Communist Government. He was allowed to write one letter a week to his wife, Olga. On 7 January 1980 he wrote about a Prague greengrocer who ran a small shop. In the shop window he placed a sign saying 'Workers of the World Unite'. No-one looking at the shop window took any notice of the sign, for they had similar signs in their shops and offices, which were delivered every week. Certainly the people looking at the shop window noticed if there were any tomatoes or other fruit and whether they were fresh, but the sign was ignored. What, then, was the function of the sign? It was put there by the greengrocer to say, 'I will be a loyal citizen. I will conform to the system, I will not rock the boat.' The reward for the greengrocer was his job, a small flat, being allowed to send his son to college, and a week's holiday each year in Bulgaria. One day, however, something in the greengrocer snaps. He decides to take down the sign and to stand for what he believes. He decides to 'live in the Truth' (as Havel put it). For Havel, living in the Truth is not to live by one's own truth, but to be responsible to something ultimate, beyond one's psyche, one's community or society. Havel never actually identified this Unknown with God, but his position is very similar to Kierkegaard who also described God as the

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What Is Truth?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page III
  • New College Lectures and Publications V
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Dedication and Acknowledgments xi
  • Part One - What is Truth? 1
  • 1 - The Implications of a Denial of Truth--Or the Claim to Have It 3
  • 2 - Realism and Anti-Realism 12
  • 3 - Foundations Without Indubitability 29
  • 4 - Anti-Realism in Religion and Morality 38
  • 5 - Constructivism in Psychology 49
  • Part Two - There is No Truth Out There 63
  • 7 - Ontology and Epistemology 65
  • 8 - Hegel and Marx 74
  • 9 - Nietzsche and Ivan Karamazov 79
  • 10 - The Denial of a Real World 89
  • 11 - Post-Modernism 95
  • 12 - Post-Modernism and Self-Identity 105
  • 13 - Interim Conclusion 117
  • Part Three - The Centre Can Hold 121
  • 14 - The Path to Truth 123
  • 15 - The Kotzker 126
  • 16 - Soren Kierkegaard and Subjectivity 132
  • 17 - Wittgenstein and Perspicuity 141
  • 18 - The Sufis 151
  • 19 - Vaclav Havel and Living the Truth 156
  • 20 - Fear and Freedom 164
  • 21 - Bringing the Threads Together 182
  • Notes 190
  • Index 201
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