Via Jonathan Swift, Lee Perlman reflects on the importance of lying to the human condition. Gulliver’s Travels turns out not to be a defense of enlightenment ideals but a critique, with a subtle defense of untruth reminiscent of Nietzsche :
In Gulliver’s Travels, Swift challenges the idea — advanced by his Enlightenment contemporaries — that truth, including the truth about human nature, is best understood as a matter of simple factual claims. Swift’s view, as we shall see, was that dedication to this rising scientific view of truth as synonymous with fact precisely misses the very essence of human nature.
So lies, which Swift takes to be part of our essential nature, are not the target of his satire. The enemy of human authenticity and flourishing is pride, the pinnacle of which is the denial of the lies inherent in our nature.
While the pride of the common human being may be a willful ignorance of our faults, the pride of the rational absolutist is a mixture of self-hatred and pious self-worth. … Dedication to the truth of abstracted rationality, and perhaps most of all to the pursuit of seemingly concrete facts that scientific empiricism promotes, tends toward this absolutism.