Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love of truth

Let's say I am grading final exams and am very curious how a student who had been struggling all semester will do in the course. So I forthwith submit a B+ for her to our grading system, without bothering with any more calculations, and my curiosity is satisfied.

There is something perverse here. Of course, there is a perversion of justice—that's clear. But I think there may also be a perversion of the intellectual life. Genuine love of truth is not satisfied by making a proposition true or false. Genuine love of truth, at least as proper to creatures, seeks to make the mind reflect the world, not to make the world reflect the mind. If this line of thought is wrong, then the counterexample to evidentialism in my previous post fails.

The issue comes also comes up in third-person cases. My friend thinks that I will be wearing a long-sleeved shirt today. Does a loving desire to promote his intellectual goods give me any reason to wear such a shirt? I doubt it. But if not, then this is very puzzling. For surely my friend is intrinsically the better off for getting right what I will wear.

Maybe the case is a bit like throwing a game. My daughter wants to beat me at chess. But she wants to beat me by her own powers, rather than because I didn't try hard. Is there any value to beating me if I don't try at all?

This example suggests that when I wear a long-sleeved shirt to make my friend be right, his being right is not an achievement of his, and hence it's not much of a victory. But maybe this makes the epistemic life sound too proud. Maybe we should rather see it humbly as a comformation of our minds to reality.

Maybe the direction-of-fit issue here is parallel to one with desires. I bought my friend a trinket for his birthday. I then slip him a pill that induces a desire for the trinket. Surely that's perverse—it gets things the wrong way around. I should make the world conform to my friend's (reasonable) desires, not the other way around. And to make my friend's beliefs conform to the world, not the other way around.

It might be different in the case of God. Aquinas says that God knows creation by creating. Maybe here is a crucial difference between God and creatures.

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