Real Love of Truth

A friend of mine helpfully outlined for me today the difference between real love of Truth and idolatrous commitment to mere ideology. I’m not quoting him directly in what follows, but adapting his basic points and adding a few of my own.

As a general rule, real lovers of Truth feel threatened neither by error nor its advocates. Real love of Truth has very different results on one’s psyche than an immature total investment of one’s person in a systematic Total Program of Grand Ideas which one unqualifiedly equates with Truth. Rather than encouraging incessant ramped-up polemics about the grotesque errors of others and the surpassing virtues of one’s own view, real love of Truth instead makes one more peaceful, more responsibly confident, and more able to seek sympathetic understanding of the Other. Real love of truth promotes more understanding of error and more facility in seeking its remedy.

I’ve never thought about it in quite this way, but I have to say in light of my friend’s statement that it pretty well describes the course of my intellectual life for the last few years. As I’ve become more aware of my own limitations to grasp Truth, I’ve experienced a progressive lessening of anxiety when I encounter other positions that my first instinct is to consider erroneous. I’ve become progressively less interested in controversy and debates, because such are usually fruitless ego contests between angst-ridden absolutists whose equal and opposite immoderacies simply cancel each other out. I’ve become more interested in trying to see the good in the Other and in seeking plausible avenues of reconciliation with its adherents. I’ve become less willing to dogmatize about even things which I strongly consider true, and more willing to listen to constructive critique of them. I’ve become more aware that like all viatores, all travelers through this veil of tears-in-process-of-redemption, I see through a glass darkly, and only later will I see face-to-face.

This basic peace of mind born of not thinking too highly of one’s own grasp of Truth does not necessarily exclude becoming frustrated, perhaps deeply so, with immoderate people who confuse their “Total Identity” immaturity with pristine love of Truth. This is especially the case when they make it very difficult to reason with them because as their “Total Identity” perspective comes under fire they retreat to playing the martyr or other forms of simply denying you the right to critique them with as much vigor as they’ve been critiquing you. It’s interesting how deeply insecure the most ostensibly confident people actually are. Nor is this basic peace of mind a “once for all” event that makes sure I’ll never again experience any anxiety upon encountering some strong assault on my basic views. There are always deeply personal, subjective factors in seeking Truth, and personal, subjective factors in dealings with other persons. I’ll always see the world through my own eyeballs, but I’ll never learn to see everything through them. The best of men are men at best. I can’t see my own blindspots–which is why I need significant communion with other real Truth seekers.

My friend’s reminder about the difference between real love of Truth and an immature total personal investment in Total Ideology comes at a timely moment for me. I hope it helps others, as well.

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11 Responses to Real Love of Truth

  1. The Scylding says:

    And a hearty AMEN! Give your friend a pat on the back, coming from the Great White North!

  2. Ree says:

    Isn’t it possible for a “real lover of truth,” though–say, a pastor or a parent–to feel threatened by error for the sake of those entrusted to his care? Don’t even some of the apostles’ warnings and admonitions show some evidence of fear for the sake of the flock?

    Perhaps some people who aren’t at all insecure about their own beliefs (whether those beliefs are right or wrong) experience fear and anxiety about the effects of error for those they love and care for.

  3. Tim Enloe says:

    Ree, I wouldn’t disagree with that.

  4. Ree says:

    Good, and I think you’re setting a good example by publicly examining your own motives. But isn’t a statement like, “It’s interesting how deeply insecure the most ostensibly confident people actually are,” a bit presumptuous? How can you know this?

  5. Tim Enloe says:

    Ree, I think I gave the criteria for that observation in the several sentences right before the one you quote.

  6. This is a good summary for what has happened with me too Tim. My focusing on reason and logic is because it is so badly in disuse in society today. This problem carries over into so many areas that it seems to me to be worth going to the basics and treating on them from there.

    Here are a few threads from earlier in the year which you may find of interest as touch on three problem areas that a lot of people have:

    On the Difference Between Objective Meaning and Subjective Intention (circa February 27, 2007)

    On the Appeal to Authority and Distinguishing Between Valid and Fallacious Appeals Thereof (circa March 8, 2007)

    More on the Appeal to Authority and Distinguishing Between Valid and Invalid Appeals Thereof–Dialogue With Jonathan Prejean (circa March 24, 2007)
    Ad Hominem, Revisiting Argumentum Ad Vericundiam, and Considering the Core Principle That Is Behind Any Argumentation/Logical Fallacy (circa June 1, 2007)

    Another area of focus pertaining to the latter one is on what I call foundational presuppositions or the lenses whereby we view any and all knowledge that is presented to us.

    The more I have focused on these areas, the clearer it has become to me just how many things we all have which impact how we view reality. I always knew this I suppose but in recent years this factor was manifested to me with much greater clarity. I can look back and sorta chuckle a bit at the exertions of years gone by to persuade people of a particular interpretation of reality where the focus was not on the lenses which they were looking through -as foundational presuppositions operate a lot similar to the way options do with stocks except in reverse. (Small movements in stock result in magnified movements in the underlying options.)

    But I think I have said enough here already except “hi Tim and how are you and your family doing???” :)

  7. I just realized that these comboxes are monitored. I apologize for sending the same post twice previously -please use the first one (with the live links in it) and delete the followup post as well as this one.


  8. Tim Enloe says:

    Shawn, I got only one other comment from you, and it was on the apologetics post. If you put too many links, say, more than 4, in another comment, I am afraid the software “nuked” your comment before I ever saw it.

  9. Ree says:

    Well, yes, I see how you justify your conclusion, but it still strikes me as a presumptuous one. I guess you see it how you see it, though, and I’m not going to change your mind. Oh well.

  10. Tim Enloe says:

    Ree, can you truly think of no apologists who strike you, once you get past their bluster, as very insecure? I have several in mind, myself. The basic consideration for understanding the bluster / insecurity relationship is to note how deeply certain kinds of apologetics, on their face obsessed with CERTAINTY, are based on a prior set of DOUBTS.

    But I suppose if you want to focus on one minor point which isn’t even essential to the thrust of the post, that’s your business.

  11. Ree says:

    People strike me lots of different ways, but I try not to presume that my impressions, especially when they’re negative, necessarily reflect reality. I might even think they do, but I think I’m less inclined to make my judgments public than you are. And, heck, I don’t know that I even understand my own motives much of the time so, again, I feel it would be presumptuous of me to place too much confidence in my reading of others.

    And I can see how it would seem that I overfocus on things like this that you say, because those are the things I tend to respond to, but I assure you that I wouldn’t be reading so much of what you write just so that I can find and pick at these little things. For me, though, these are the kinds of statements that detract from your broader message.

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