Who Cares About the Truth?

Oh god, I'm slipping into moral realivism.

Such rough-and-ready pragmatism taps into one of our deepest intellectual veins. It appeals to America's collective self-image as a square-jawed action hero. And it may partly explain why the outcry against the White House's deception over the war in Iraq was rather muted. It is not just that we believe that "united we stand," it is that, deep down, many Americans are prone to think that it is results, not principles, that matter. ...some of us find worrying over abstract principles like truth to be boring and irrelevant nitpicking, best left to the nerds who watch C-Span and worry about whether the death penalty is "fair."

So, by not opposing the Iraq war, you may as well have joined all those nuts not engaged in worrying about "abstract principles like truth".

An unswerving allegiance to what you believe isn't a sign that you care about truth. It is a sign of dogmatism. Caring about truth does not mean never having to admit you are wrong. On the contrary, caring about truth means that you have to be open to the possibility that your own beliefs are mistaken. It is a consequence of the very idea of objective truth. True beliefs are those that portray the world as it is and not as we hope, fear, or wish it to be. If truth is objective, believing doesn't make it so; and even our most deeply felt opinions could turn out to be wrong.

Oh wow, I agree. Unfortunately, the author falls into the same trap most liberal mouth-pieces do; they forget to turn this mirror on themselves.

Disgusted by the right's lust for absolutes, many of us retreated from talk of objective truth and embraced the philosopher Richard Rorty's call for an "ironic" stance toward our own liberal sympathies. We stopped caring about whether we were "right" and thought more about what makes the world go round.

Remember, the point he's working towards is that liberal thought needs to now search for absolutes. But when the right does this, it's lust. Kids, this is lesson number one in how to hold dual, and opposing, positions on the same subject. And, what critcism of the right would be complete without a reference to 1984

What [O'Brien, the sinister representative of Big Brother] cares about is getting rid of Winston's idea of truth. He is well aware of the point I've just been making. Eliminate the very idea of right and wrong independent of what the government says, and you eliminate not just dissent -- you eliminate the very possibility of dissent.

Very true. Orwell understood well that silencing criticsism isn't enough for absolute control. Absolute power involves intellectual control at such a fundamental level, the individual ceases to be meaningful. The world of 1984 also flexed a muscle currently missing from our political body: children. An entire generation of Winston's life was completely enslaved by the government, escewing even the family unit. Parents vanished based on children's accusations and it was simply a fact of life, something Winston saw coming long before running into his neighbor at the Ministry of Truth. Wonder if strengthening the family unit seems a fairly worthwhile endeavor now?

Link (via Arts & Letters Daily)

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