Friday, August 10, 2018

Good truths and true goods

There's a cliche that's often spouted by Christian apologists: follow the evidence wherever it leads. 

Up to a point that's wise advice although it can suffer from a naive positivism. 

Problem is, Christian philosophers and apologists often discuss the true in separation from the good. They argue that we should believe Christianity because it's true, and they discuss how God is the exemplar good and source of finite goods. But this tends to be compartmentalized. 

If, however, the true and the good don't converge, then why should anyone care about truth? If the truth isn't good, why should we pursue whatever the cost? You might pursue the truth, but once your pursuit convinces you that it doesn't lead you to the good, what's the point? If life is a cosmic tragedy where there's no happy ending for anyone, why should I follow it over the cliff? Even if I can't avoid it, that's hardly a noble goal. 

Don't get me wrong: the truth can be bad in sense that, say, cancer is bad in itself (although it can be a source of good). I mean bad in an ultimate, unredeemable sense of cosmic nihilism. There's no reason anyone should have a commitment to that. 

I'm not suggesting that truth is dispensable. There are churchgoers who don't think Christianity is true. They think it's a myth, but a good myth. It gives structure and direction to their lives. They don't have anything better to replace it with, so they continue singing traditional hymns and reciting a traditional liturgy. 

On the one hand there are atheists who separate the true from the good, pursuing truth for truth's sake, even if that diverges from the good. Even if there's no good to be found.

On the other hand, there are churchgoers who separate the good from the true, pursuing good for goodness sake, even if that diverges from the truth. Even if there's no truth to be found. 

We need to oppose both those extremes. The true and the good must coincide for either to be of ultimate value. If the good isn't true, then the good is illusory. If the true isn't good, then it has no claims on us. 

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