Does not civilized living depend on not seeing things as they are? There can be neither order nor stability and continuity without illusions about authority, about the attainability of desired goals, about the quality of our fellow men, and about our own nature. A confrontation with naked, raw reality shreds the fiber of civilized life.

— Eric Hoffer, Before the Sabbath


Even if we were mad enough to consider all our opinions true, we should still not want them alone to exist: I cannot see why it should be desirable that truth alone should rule and be omnipotent; it is enough for me that it should possess great power. But it must be able to struggle and have great opponents, and one must be able to find relief from it from time to time in untruth — otherwise, it will become boring, powerless and tasteless to us, and make us the same.

— Nietzsche, Daybreak


The theme of this book is that, for better or worse, lying, untruth, is not an artificial, deviant, or dispensable feature of life. Nature engages in it, sometimes with remarkable ingenuity. Art, with its “telling of beautiful, untrue things,” has at times so dominated the mind of a period thinkers could seriously argue that life may be understood truthfully only in aesthetic terms. The impulse to transcend mere literal fact occurs throughout nature. Quite humble biological organisms evolve as a semblance, an alias; a pictorial rendering of some other, less vulnerable organism, Might we not say, for example, that species of Cycloptera, insects that resemble leaves, trompe d’oeil masterpieces which might have been painted by a seventeenth-century Dutch master, perfect in color, shape, and size, even complete with imitation veins and fungus spots, are works of art? It is a seductive hypothesis that falsehood is “on the side of life,” is the lubricant that makes society run, while truth can be harsh, dangerous, and destructive; too simple, too naked, for the complexities of twenty-first-century society, inheritor of one of the most brutal hundred years in the history of mankind.

— Jeremy Campbell, The Liar’s Tale: A History of Falsehood