It is crucial to the worldview and self esteem of the Left that they regard themselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, as being morally and intellectually superior to their honorable opposition on the Right. A century long nightmare of the mass deaths, wars, broken lives, mass thefts, mass addiction to lying propaganda, and spiritual chaos spread by this political neurosis makes the act of total mental dishonesty needed to maintain this stance of presumptive intellectual superiority both difficult and comical to maintain, yet by heroic effort the Left manages to do so.
It is because they sacrifice everything else on this altar. Their self esteem, or, to call it by its right name, the Sin of Pride, absorbs all their attention and overthrows all other scruples, hesitations and sentiments. They are desperate to maintain their illusory and inflated self-image. Because they are desperate, they are shameless.
The prime evidence of their shamelessness is in the attitude, present in all writings of the Left that venture into philosophical areas, of disdain and dismissal toward the truth. I do not mean that they are untruthful. They are, but that is a side effect. I mean that on a fundamental and philosophical level, there is no place in their worldview for the concept that truth is objective.
In the bleary and psychedelic and flaccid mental world of the Left, truth is a matter of consensus, like the rules of grammar, or a matter of personal preference, like your taste in ice cream.
For them, truth is not true.
They also believe that if there were an objective truth out there somewhere, we could not find it, since our brains are too limited and biased by genetic and cultural deceptions to be relied upon; but this is a separate dogma of theirs to be discussed later. Here we are discussing only their belief that there is nothing for reason to discover even if our powers of reason were trustworthy. They both believe that the eye is blind, and that there is no source of light anywhere.
Obviously, even if they wanted honestly to believe truth is not true, they could not. It is a paradox, a blatant self-contradiction; nay, it is an insolent self-contradiction.
A statement that there is no truth, if true, is false.
So why do they utter such utter nonsense? Why do they pretend to believe it? Some of them pretend hard enough, eyes squinting and teeth clenched, to fool themselves into believing that they believe it.
It is meant as a slap in your face, should you dare to think. But, logically, whoever says this is also condemned by it. Why say it?
In the quest for intellectual superiority, there are two basic strategies: first, do something concrete to display your superior intellect to the world unambiguously, such as by reconciling Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity, or such as by proving that, for projective algebraic varieties, Hodge cycles are rational linear combinations of algebraic cycles.
The second is to claim superiority of the intellect, and to display to the world some form of incomprehensible paradox, or gibberish, or make noises like a hoopoe, so that when a skeptic questions your alleged superior thought process, you can grandly decree him to be too mentally retarded to comprehend your culminant transcendent ultra-superbrilliance, and too morally corrupt to deserve to do so.
This decree cannot stand in any field of endeavor where there is an understandable objective standard of judgment. There are fields, like the fine arts or economics, where the judgment cannot be reduced to a measurable standard; and fields, like climate science, which involve so many technical nuances, masses of opaque data and subtle conflicts of judgment, that the measurable standard is not understandable to the layman. When is the last time you heard a climatologist make a claim that could be disproved by a specific observation?
For obvious reasons, the first strategy is unavailable to the Left. The second strategy has the obvious drawback that it makes objectivity the enemy. Truth is the enemy. So the second strategy fails unless confidence that truth exists is undermined.
No doubt the reader may object that his Leftwing next door neighbor or coworker or teammate does not believe the crazy idea that truth is not true, so how can the claim that this is a core Leftwing idea be justified?
That requires a word of explanation: Leftism is not a political party. Political parties are concerned with forming a coalition to enact or enforce policies in the spheres of law, war, economics and public order. Leftism is a religion. A religion encompasses all parts of life, everything from marriage to the definition of when life begins to man’s role in society and in the universe, to man’s stewardship of the environment.
True, it is a religion without a god, but, then again, so is Buddhism, Confucianism or Taoism. Recycling is not a political issue; it is a religious issue, a rite meant to placate the Earth. Gay Marriage is not a political issue; it is a religious issue, a question of sacrament and desecration. The obsession with alleged evils provoked by man-caused Global Warming, now that we are in the midst of a global cooling trend (17 years and counting), is not a scientific issue nor a psychological disease nor a political issue, but a dogma of faith: those who doubt it are not called skeptics but heretics, excuse me, deniers.
Ideas are discussed and debated among academics and philosophers and carried to the public by intellectuals and opinion molders, and the trusting public takes the ideas on faith and repeats them until such ideas become a consensus. The consensus is like a moral and mental atmosphere, a diffuse gas with no one origin. The slow drip of opinion from the rarefied academy to the salons of the “smart set” to the unquestioned cultural assumptions of the age takes a generation or three; but all the commonplace platitudes which the common man thinks are merely common sense in his grandfather’s day were shocking absurdities debated only by philosophers and pundits.
In the same way that not all believing Christians are theologians, not all Leftists know that they believe truth is relative, but they accept implicitly the conclusions and the worldview of Leftist philosophers who taught it explicitly. All orthodox Christians believe in the mystery of the Trinity even if they know not what it means. So here all orthodox Leftists believe truth is relative, even if they know not what it means. Most Christians have not been properly catechized and do not know what their faith teaches. Likewise, most Leftists have not been properly indoctrinated in college (which is the seminary for the Left) and do not know what their faith teaches. They still believe it.
In this case, the idea of relativism is a mystery of the faith, and one never meant to be employed consistently. It is only used by hypocrites. No one ever applied the idea to his own ideas. No Leftist ever says, “I believe global warming is primarily man-caused and is certain to have disastrous rather than beneficial effects on human civilization — and my beliefs are a byproduct of the fact that I am Caucasian. My beliefs only apply to me and do not apply to you.”
It is only the beliefs of their opponents which are denounced: we are chided and lectured and dismissed as lunatics who suffer the strange delusion that matters of opinion are matters of fact.
The idea is rarely stated explicitly. It is the unstated assumption behind phrases like “that is true for you but not for me” or behind claims like “no one has the right to impose his views on another.” (It is never explained why it is that this view, the view that no one has the right to impose his views on another, can be imposed rightfully on all and sundry.)
If truth is true, then we are all accountable to it. We all have to answer to it.
If truth is true, there is one right answer and no one has an argument in favor of the wrong answers. If truth is true, the right answer has the right to speak and all the wrong answers shut up.
But if truth is not true, everyone has a right to an irresponsible opinion, and no one ever need answer for wrong answers. Only the right answer is commanded to shut up, whereas all the wrong answers need never stop their megalomaniacal chattering and caterwauling.
And now you know why the Left holds the dogma that no truth is true.
Read last week’s column: The Seven Right Ideas of Conservatism.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.