Monday, June 06, 2011

Truth is a Poor Excuse to Swindle Us of Our Slack

They always come at you with the TRUTH, don't they? -- even the ones who otherwise have no use for the concept.

As we have mentioned before, even if a person is unable to know truth directly, he can know it indirectly by virtue of what evildoers pretend is true.

For example, all evil regimes that are manifestly steeped in falsehood claim to be aligned with a Truth that confers their bogus legitimacy, from the world-historical powers and principalities embodied in National Socialism or communism, to more regional demonocracies such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and Berkeley.

In each case, they not only maintain that they are founded upon truth, but that in most cases they are the very guardians of a precious and beleaguered truth to which the world is implacably hostile.

This has led many secular sophisticates of the postmodern left -- okay, all of them -- to reject the very concept of Truth. But this is like rejecting medicine because of what Nazi doctors did with it, or education because of how our elite universities disfigure it.

You might even hear a proglodyte of the left accuse us of "anti-intellectualism," which is only to miss the point entirely. It is because we cherish education that we criticize the educational establishment, just as it is because of our compassion for the poor that we champion the most demonstrably successful ways to escape poverty, none of which involve statism.

For that matter, it is because it harms blacks that we oppose state-mandated racial discrimination. We know this is true, if only because it is considered a terrible offense to suggest that Obama is our first "affirmative action president." If racial discrimination is such a wonderful thing, why take offense when we point out that some individual has benefited from the practice?

Speaking of how evildoers claim to be acting in the name of truth, just yesterday we were reading of how the uncompromising pursuit of truth was largely responsible for Hitler's downfall. For example, in invading Russia, he was simultaneously engaged in a battle of annihilation and a war of racial genocide.

But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior" races. Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise, in ways that severely hindered the allocation of resources.

In a perverse way, we can be thankful that Hitler was such a principled man, because if he weren't, he would have been a much more rational and formidable enemy.

In comparison, Stalin and his heirs to power were much more unprincipled. The USSR pursued its irrational beliefs in relatively rational and predictable ways, whereas, say, Islamists are willing to pursue their irrational ideology in completely irrational ways, up to and including self-destruction (as was the case with Imperial Japan).

In any event, "truth" is clearly a problem, because most of the wholesale evil in the world is committed in its name. Ratzinger writes that although we all supposedly cherish freedom, "we are inclined to react with suspicion to the concept of truth: we recall that the term truth has already been claimed for many opinions and systems, and that the assertion of truth has often been a means of suppressing freedom."

Thus we see at once that there is some sort of relationship between truth and freedom. But is it a direct or inverse relation?

We might say that the psychospiritual left maintains that the relation is inverse, and that the only way to secure our freedom is to deny any kind of epistemological totalitarianism from gaining power. Thus, as Ratzinger observes -- since he has often been their target -- "Anyone who maintains that he is serving the truth by his life, speech, and action must prepare himself to be classified as a dreamer or fanatic."

This is hardly an intrinsically meritless point of view, given man's bleak track record. History is a chronicle of malignant stupidities masquerading as truth, so why not chuck the whole nasty business, and limit "truth" to what can be empirically demonstrated, like climate change, or Keynesian economics, or queer theory? That way, only the good people will have power over us.

In some ultimate sense, man is oriented toward the One, Good, True, and Beautiful. But only because he is so oriented, he is susceptible to becoming dis-oriented. Although many people are uncomfortable with the idea of absolute truth, they all know a lie when they see one.

But in the absence of absolute truth, there is actually no real ground for arbitrating between various lies. Rather, one opinion is intrinsically no worse than another, hence the absurd doctrine of multiculturalism -- an "absolute relativism" that somehow coexists with its ideological opposite, the dogmatic absolutism of political correctness.

Is there a course between these two varieties of false absolutism? Yes, but only if man has free will. Everything is rooted in this principle, without which there is obviously no freedom, but more subtly, no truth -- including, of course, the "truth" that free will is an illusion, for what can an illusion prove? It's like asking how to obtain food from a dream of it.

Now, if truth is an illusion, then at once human intercourse is reduced to a matter of will. One could say that in such an existentialist worldview, man is condemned to freedom. Truly, freedom becomes just another word for "nothing left to lose," or, more succinctly, nothing.

Such a system would understand freedom "as the right and opportunity to do just what we wish and not have to do anything we do not wish to do." It "would mean that our own will is the sole norm of our action" (Ratzinger).

This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit if his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth.

In the Raccoon view, Truth is absolutely real. Indeed, it is the real Absolute. That being the case, no relative being could ever "contain" it.

This has some resonance with Gödel's theorems, which, among other things, prove that man has access to a whole world of transcendent truth that cannot be proved with mere reason. Rather, any such system is always founded upon assumptions the system cannot prove, rendering all such systems epistemologically closed circles in the lost roundup.

The Raccoon prefers to call this absolute truth O, so as not to confuse it with something we already know. For example, it is quite easy for an atheist to disprove the existence of God, but fundamentally impossible to disprove the beyond-existence of O without absurdly disproving oneself.

Now, tradition, properly understood, is not supposed to be a kind of binding tyranny from which we need to be liberated. Even so, one must not absolutize the system and conflate it with that to which it points, O.

Rather, you might say that it is a whole system for the articulation of O, generally worked out by people much better and smarter than you -- unless you believe there is no one better than you, in which case your faith in yourself is total. And I never argue with another man's faith.

Gotta get ready for work. To be continued...

9 Comments:

Anonymous Take A Bite from My Apple, Fiona said...

What usually happens is that parents implants a negative message in a small child (you aren't good or some version there-of.

The child splits from its true self and invents a persona that will ensure parental love.

The child, now an adult, defends its persona against all comers.

It's sense of being right, of being entitled, of being better than others, is essential to its survival.

When such a person comes into power, he takes the persona and imposes its dicatates on the masses.

That is the etiology of evil, my friend.

The only way out is to treat the children well when they are small, leading to a gradual reduction in false personas.

Virtually everyone today has one, and it ain't good.

6/06/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Asstounding. Low self-esteem is the root of all evil! Move along folks, the mystery of life is solved: be nice to your kids and utopia will follow!

*sigh*

6/06/2011 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This raises the immediate question of whether, say, an irrational man is actually free in the pursuit if his irrational ends. If we do not believe in free will anyway, then it is a moot point. Nor do we have any basis to object if we don't believe in truth. Rather, freedom only becomes meaningful -- and therefore valuable -- if it is exercised in the light of real -- not "false" or illusory -- Truth."

Ho!

It's also a mute point for imbeciles who disdain liberty.
Which is why they enslave in the name of liberty as well as truth, to make it sound good.

6/06/2011 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

There are probably dozens of ways to be a bad parent and mess up a child's life. I don't think teaching kids a little respect, self-discipline, and a right attitude toward the rights of others is harmful.

6/06/2011 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom - agreed, absolutely. But to say that bad parenting is the root of all evil strikes me as the sort of thing that is not even wrong. Any decent parent knows that you don't have to be cruel to your child for your child to treat others cruelly, and you don't have to lie to your child for him to tell a lie.

The world is full of adults whose childhoods were marked by the worst, most unimaginable sorts of abuse, yet who manage to spend their lives working for what is good and being a source of light in the world. And conversely, there is no shortage of folks raised with great self-esteem, whose mamas loved them unconditionally, who are sitting cozy in tent city wearing pink pajamas and eating bologna sandwiches.

In other words, of course it's important to be good to your kids, but the truth of evil is nothing so simple as that.

It would be nice if that were so; the solution then would be simple. But "nice," all too often, has nothing to do with the truth.

6/06/2011 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"But because National Socialism was founded upon the "truth" of racial superiority, it often interfered in completely irrational ways with the prosecution of the overall war, which took a back seat to the sadistic elimination of "inferior" races. Precious resources were committed to the latter enterprise, in ways that severely hindered the allocation of resources."

Not to mention bringing on what happened 67yrs ago today.

The rejection of Truth and the freedom to act in accordance with it, is the initiation of self destruction - for States or Sophs.

6/06/2011 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Van, you are truly a breath of fresh air today.

The rejection of Truth and the freedom to act in accordance with it, is the initiation of self destruction - for States or Sophs.

Conversely, accepting the Truth after having lived the lie long enough quite often feels like self-destruction. Which it is, inasmuch as the self is false.

6/06/2011 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Yes, what I was thinking was that the self-esteem thing went way overboard.

6/06/2011 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Julie said "Van, you are truly a breath of fresh air today."

This post was for me, but I sure didn't feel like it myself. One house with 9 relatives for 5 days... leaves one a bit dazed.

Took the last of them to the airport late yesterday - while it was great seeing them all... it was also great seeing them all leave.

;-)

6/07/2011 10:40:00 AM  

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