How Far Would You Go For The Truth?


Can YOU handle the truth?

As some may or may not know, Christopher Hitchens was a big influence in my life and in my thinking. He pursued truth (or at least what he saw to be true) relentlessly. This characteristic is something I admire greatly. In the past few years I’ve tried to adopt this mind-set full on, but how important is it to spread truths that you and I may come across? Especially in the case that you may know a truth that will negatively impact someone.

Here is a hypothetical: You know a truth that would most surely be detrimental to human society and thinking, causing everyone to become unhappy. No harm other than mental strife. Also, this truth is not to bring a stop to any sort of violence or ethical misbehavior.

How you know it will be detrimental is not important here. What your ethical obligation is when it comes to spreading this truth is important. Would you lie to all those who asked about this truth in order to save them? OR is there a higher ethical obligation to share this knowledge regardless of the consequences? Does the truth lose it’s priority over happiness?

Saying that you should always tell the truth, regardless of fear that others may not handle it well is not a cogent argument in this case. It is not because there is no “fear” in this hypothetical. You do not “fear” that they will not be able to handle it well. You KNOW, however that may be.

Given that you would be knowingly making everyone unhappy if you spread whatever fact it is you have, you’re left with a decision.

What takes priority? Truth or Happiness?

This may be a very simple answer, but what is important to me is finding out how much priority is placed on truth. What about if you yourself find out a truth that makes you unhappy? Would it be plain out WRONG (on an intellectual basis) to try to delude yourself in order to regain a certain level of bliss? If so, why?

I’m sure there are philosophical works that explore this question of the importance of truth on a much deeper, but I am not familiar with them.



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