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Journalists and truth: a possible combination?

gavina_masala-1-240x240112(By Gavina Masala) “All human beings have the innate desire to know”, wrote Aristotle in his Metaphysics, adding: “All other sciences are more necessary than this (philosophy), but not higher.”

In the same work, the philosopher stressed the specificity of men compared to animals, which was found in their being endowed with reason, and the importance of the abstractive faculty of reason to reach the level of scientific knowledge, meant as a sound truth (episteme).

Why remembering the Stagirite today? Because never as today mass media are a subject of attention from the most heterogeneous environments: last Thursday, during a meeting with journalists, the Pope recalled the importance of telling the truth: “The issue here is not to be or not be a believer. The issue here is to be or not to be honest with yourself. (…) I hope that journalism is more and more and everywhere a construction tool, a common good factor, an accelerator of processes of reconstruction.”

In a much less respectful way, some days ago thundered Beppe Grillo: “They do not understand anything, it’s a lost battle, they can only count how much hair Virginia Raggi has…”. The pentastellati on Palermo’s Circo Massimo applauded satisfied, almost mocking the many journalists scattered among them.

It is undeniable that journalism is affected by an unprecedented crisis, but it is equally true that the concept of truth makes it necessary to specify a few points that we should not overlook.

Getting back to Aristotle, he thought that practical truth (which includes ethics and philosophy) does not and should not have the same certainty of science, because the premises from which it moves are true for the most part, but they are not tout court truths.

Circumscribed the matter as we did previously, we can say that the appeal to the journalistic truth can be understood as an ethical obligation, and the way to refute it, or the compass to see if we are on track, is as follows: starting from premises believed to be true, you develop consequences and verify if they enter in conflict or not with endoxa, the most authoritative and truthful opinions.

Today the major experts are inclined to consider as endoxa the principles embodied in the constitutions of democratic states and in international declarations, taken as opinions of the majority. Namely, human rights (right to life, right to education, right to asylum, etc.) are the current endoxa: they just respect the common human nature, that human dignity that every man or woman who is part of a civilization joins.

So how to comment on the different appeals (in form) but similar in content, on ethics of communication by Pope Francis and Beppe Grillo? Such appeals seem to connect to the concept of the protection of human dignity, which is in fact something at least partly questionable. Actually, ethics always leaves a margin of interpretability, but it does not mean that a truth does not exist.

If you intend to carry with dignity the profession of journalism, it is therefore mandatory to protect the rights and dignity of those with whom you speak or write, without claiming to exhaust a subject or problem in an incontrovertible way, but with the strong intent of describing the reality respecting your next. Word of Aristotle.

Simone Venturini


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