Truth as Disvalue
Truth as disvalue, evasion as value, a belief system which maximizes life’s value.
I have heard it said that nothing which is untrue can ultimately be of value to a rational person and that knowledge of the truth is always a value. When dealing with statements of these kinds, of course one must keep in mind what one means by value, we know for example that truth does not have intrinsic value, as there is no such thing as intrinsic value. So investigating the claim that truth is always a value necessitates an evaluation according to a particular chosen standard of value. Is it true that truth is always a value? Can it ever be a disvalue?
I will herein below show that according to certain classes of standards of value, truth can be a disvalue. Moreover, I will illustrate how, in that context, evasion can in fact be a value. I then proceed to show how one can proceed successfully (according to that standard of value) to adopt a belief system which maximizes values according to that standard, and in fact that such a belief system is entailed and required by such a standard.
The One Truth
Knowledge of reality is incredibly powerful. It is indispensable to action, allows prediction of nature, is the foundation of science, invention, agriculture, architecture, medicine, art, literally everything we know which sustains us and enables happiness is in some way tied with knowledge and rationality. None of these truths which prove useful are to be abandoned or contradicted as they are invaluable. They form a wholeness of knowledge which is at one with the blinding Truth of existence.
In this the wholeness though lurks but one black hole… one truth in which sits the opposite of the whole of truth’s promise for life, the very fact of Death itself.
After decades of accepting as true, complete oblivion, as the state succeeding life on Earth, I have come to the realization that it is an ugly life draining truth which brings me nothing but horror, fear, and sadness. Resignation to its truth has not assuaged the extreme aversion to physical risk, the morbid thoughts, the nagging sense of death being around every corner, on every highway, hidden in every airplane booking. The reflection that all those living, family and friends will end in the same zero… and that all the daughters and sons of my sons and daughters will, finally, amount to more than the dead matter from which they sprung for their brief lives, ripples unceasingly in my mind.
When I was a Deist and believed in an afterlife, I of course did my best to avoid death, I did not entertain unduly risky behavior, because after all, I enjoyed and cherished my life, my family and friends and what I could achieve over my life span, but death itself was seen only as a bump in the road, another transformation, that once traversed, would seem almost inconsequential. Upon death, Life would become some nostalgic memory, no more disturbing than the memories of an adult fondly recalling some childhood haunt or cherished toy. We throw off the trappings of our former selves to become that which we are meant to be, and death was only one step of growth in an existence beyond this one.
But the final and true death, of non-being, non-existence, of oblivion, is the black maw of the worst possible monster, literally, as nothing could be worse for me than the negation and destruction of absolutely everything of value to me. It pesters my mind and my soul like some incessant midge from the underworld, and no matter how much I swat at it in a futile attempt to live my life in peace, it always harries me time and again.
According to a standard of value which belongs to a class in which the standard of value to the life of man qua man comprises a combination of survival, pleasure, and happiness, the one truth of death IS and always will be a disvalue to me. This I know of myself with unshakable certainty.
When I compare my happiness, and daily pleasure at the wonders around me, as they are experienced now, with that ever present darkness in the sky, with my happiness and daily pleasure as one who believed in an afterlife, as I had in the past, I am certain, absolutely certain, that the truth negates a great deal of happiness, pleasure, and peace in my life.
As such, according to those certain classes of standards of value, the one truth of death, IS a disvalue to me. Truth indeed can be a disvalue.
[For simplicity, “value” hereafter means “value” according to those classes of standard of value to the life of man qua man comprising a combination of survival, pleasure, and happiness]
The One Evasion
As a Deist, I believed that nature and the beyond (the supernatural) were distinct and sundered. I faithfully held that there was absolutely no connection between them except the traversal (and one way only) upon death. The dead cannot reach the living nor the living reach the dead, and no God nor Omnipotency could affect the natural world of reality. There was only existence, and nothing supernatural there, until death, after which there was nothing but that realm beyond.
Maintaining such an evasion was not uncommon to me, nor even unique to my life as a Deist. My former self as a traditional Christian, was very interested in science was very adept at the necessary evasions. Compartmentalization is no mystery to me, and I am all too familiar with it and evasion. I am very cognizant that these are “skills” which I used often and relentlessly. As a person very interested in science, and even after having gone through a few degrees in science, I was capable of all kinds of evasions, but then I did not have the motivation any more.
At one point I decided that the truth was more important that what I wanted to believe, more important that the comfort or pleasure I might obtain from a falsehood. According to what standard? Why? At this point, not having been exposed to Objectivism, I really did not have any well-reasoned basis, I simply took for granted that what is true is the Truth and that the Truth was more “important” than any falsehood, that indeed Truth was a kind of “intrinsic” good.
So over time I was able to escape the trap of mysticism, because of my motivation for truth, and nothing more. I escaped all forms of mysticism and embraced the absolute of reality and Objectivism.
As an Objectivist, I understood the vast majority of truths for what they are, a great value to life. Woven into a web of integrated understanding of reality and man, they are the basis for living. Seeing this I dropped evasion as a disvalue. And in all things other than the single dark truth, evasion indeed would be a disvalue.
Because all of reality is interconnected no evasion about any single existent which by necessity is related to any and thus every other thing in existence, could be held without some fact of reality being sullied, warped, held in error. Therefor evasion in this regard is inevitably a disvalue and leads to the corruption of the whole.
Only now, armed with a proper understanding of the standard of value is it possible to see that blind pursuit of truth is not necessarily a value. Value is defined by and depends upon a standard. A truth which is sad and painful and brings no happiness and which never could be but a stain upon existence and happiness, cannot be a value. Such a truth is clearly a disvalue.
But what of the interconnectedness of truths, what of the disvalue of evasion? There is one evasion which does not encounter this problem if surrounded by judiciously held supporting evasions.
Clearly a religious person (as I was) is able to hold evasions able to withstand a great deal of reality thrown against it. Using compartmentalization and ignorance and avoidance, I could simultaneously hold truths about reality while believing in the miraculous. But miracles, and intervention by God poses a real problem, the evidence such would leave behind, the absence of which we clearly note. Of course once I became a Deist no such lack of evidence was logically entailed. The belief of that sort of Deism was in an afterlife wholly separate and sundered from reality and for which there would and could be no evidence until death.
The One evasion, that there is an afterlife, of a completely unconnected supernatural and everlasting afterlife, although arbitrary is not disproven by the evidence of the senses. Such to be sure is an arbitrary assertion, a groundless maybe…. Not even worth the label “possible”. The onus is on he who asserts the positive… but what reason, by what standard would I hold myself to that onus?
The subsidiary evasion then would be the permission of arbitrary assertions… no… the permission of ONE arbitrary assertion. I know I am capable of evasion, I have done so throughout my life, why not employ these evasions, to permit a single arbitrary assertion, and to believe that arbitrary assertion in absence of any evidence?
Clearly, Truth in and of itself is not automatically a value. This is clear from the above. Second, the problem of accepting the arbitrary would only be a threat if it invaded into all aspects of knowledge of reality, I am considering to allow it for only one aspect of reality which is (arbitrarily) wholly disconnected from all of existence.
Moreover, if I am required to permit the arbitrary and the belief in one single truth through evasion in order to regain the value of life without the constant fear and darkness and morbidity, then by what standard am I to give up the evasions which permits it?
Evasion in these aspects only, to permit the arbitrary belief in an afterlife, are a value.
The Objectivist Deism Plan
In order to maximize my life according to the standard of value I need only engage in minimal evasion to permit a belief of a single falsehood and deny a single truth. With practice and effort I will come to believe it with all my being, because I know it is a value to believe it. I am motivated by my very life to do so. I will not fail in my minimal evasions for the sake of my very life.
I will permit myself that one evasion, supported by the subsidiary evasion (from the fact that the arbitrary should be dismissed), in only this one single instance, the one evasion permitting the belief that there is an afterlife. Such brings about a belief system I call Objectivist Deism.
Reality is as it is, A is A, but there is another reality, a super-reality for which there is no evidence, and into which I will have an afterlife. This sole major evasion, that I will not die the true and unending dark death, with its subsidiary evasion permitting the acceptance in only a single arbitrary assertion, is my choice, precisely BECAUSE it is of value and my life will be better for it.
I will still understand reality as it is with all the rigor of Objectivism and science, but I will live my life, essentially better than I would have, with the added pleasures, and happiness, and the flourishing which accompanies it, with the knowledge that I will not truly die.
I will not be JUST AS successful as I would have been but for the evasion, in fact, because of my added pleasure and happiness and zest for life, I will flourish more, I will have lived more, I will have lived a life of more value than I otherwise would have lived.
As such, it is not merely an option open to me, it is necessary for me to follow this path. According to the standard of value it IS the moral course of action, I must and will take it and I will benefit all the more throughout my entire life because of it.