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THE TIES OF OUR COMMON KINDRED

THE TIES OF OUR COMMON KINDRED Page 132 Christopher Jones Everyone knows the aphorism that truth is the first casualty of war. But in all relations between states (and war is, in one sense, only a phase of such relations), truth usually takes second place to belief. To put it another way, what two states believe about each other (the other side’s intentions, military preparedness, resources, and so on) can matter more than what the truth is, since it is on its beliefs that each side will base its course of action. Truth is the business of espionage, whereas the business of diplomacy is belief. Diplomacy is concerned with creating beliefs for the other party to hold, while espionage is concerned with ascertaining facts about the other side. Diplomacy as it was practiced in ancient Greece and Rome differs from its modern counterpart in many ways, but no aspect of it appears so strange as its use of arguments that we think of as “mythical.” A well-known book by Paul Veyne questions whether the Greeks really believed in their myths at all.1 How then, it might be asked, could ancient ambassadors (to use a term less anachronistic than diplomats) have hoped to find allies http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Common Knowledge Duke University Press

THE TIES OF OUR COMMON KINDRED

Common Knowledge , Volume 9 (1) – Jan 1, 2003

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2003 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0961-754X
eISSN
1538-4578
DOI
10.1215/0961754X-9-1-132
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Page 132 Christopher Jones Everyone knows the aphorism that truth is the first casualty of war. But in all relations between states (and war is, in one sense, only a phase of such relations), truth usually takes second place to belief. To put it another way, what two states believe about each other (the other side’s intentions, military preparedness, resources, and so on) can matter more than what the truth is, since it is on its beliefs that each side will base its course of action. Truth is the business of espionage, whereas the business of diplomacy is belief. Diplomacy is concerned with creating beliefs for the other party to hold, while espionage is concerned with ascertaining facts about the other side. Diplomacy as it was practiced in ancient Greece and Rome differs from its modern counterpart in many ways, but no aspect of it appears so strange as its use of arguments that we think of as “mythical.” A well-known book by Paul Veyne questions whether the Greeks really believed in their myths at all.1 How then, it might be asked, could ancient ambassadors (to use a term less anachronistic than diplomats) have hoped to find allies

Journal

Common KnowledgeDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2003

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