Wednesday, April 28, 2021

"The Truth is Unhealthy"

"The truth is unhealthy." I think I read these words somewhere in Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil or The Gay Science. A quick Internet search does not confirm this, and it doesn't matter enough to me to leaf through my copies of those books to figure out if he really said that or not. I want to give Nietzsche credit in case he deserves it, but the idea is what is more important to me.

What is health? In this post, mostly psychological health. But it can also be "the mindset of living in accordance with wanting to protect and maximize one's own well-being so that one feels good in the moment and doesn't physically die", so, a mindset of self-preservation and subjective happiness.

What is the truth? Maybe it is "human-independent reality". Someone like Sharon Rawlette would want there to be "judgment-independent" reality which can critique our own judgments about what is right and wrong. What matters, regardless of our opinions, might be called the truth.

The truth is that which deserves to be thought about. It is something which we have to conform ourselves to. It sounds a lot like legitimacy. Perhaps it just is legitimacy (as I use the term).

In theory, the truth doesn't care at all about us and our well-being. We need to be open to facts that disregard our well-being, though we are on a quest for well-being. But the truth is not just the definition of a word, but the thing which satisfies that definition. We would expect some possible satisfactions of the definition "truth" could be unhealthy. We certainly shouldn't assume that the truth is healthy. And, what is more true, more purely fulfilling the definition "true", than unhealthiness, which disregards well-being?

There is a sense in which it is best of all if humans could approach reality without being obsessed with their well-beings. To love someone not because they make you feel good, but because they deserve it. Or to love God not because he blesses you but just because he is real and is legitimacy itself. Or to live as though not toiling and hungering under the sun, but as though looking to the stars, which are so small and easy to ignore, but so true. This requires a certain indifference to health. I could consider it to be a worthy goal to live in that "sidereal", "health-indifferent" place.

Nietzsche wrote "Beyond Good and Evil" to (if I recall correctly) posit an amoral world of good and bad, in place of good and evil. But I would sometimes like to posit a world that is "Beyond Good and Bad Well-being", one which in a sense is only moral (or aesthetic, or personal), without an ounce of "good and bad" or of "healthy and unhealthy".

Perhaps that is what heaven is for those who want that kind of freedom. However, not even God is free from the life reality of well-being as long as any of us are still in it. And much as I like stars, God is more important, and I don't think that well-being is something that God disowns, even in the ideal world. But certainly being free of slavery and idolatry to well-being is necessary if we are to make God first in our hearts.

So in that respect, I can respect a Nietzschean unhealthy truth (or a pseudo-Nietzschean one, as the case may be).

However, though well-being matters only to a certain extent, I don't think the truth, the real thing that actually satisfies the definition, is unhealthy. If you seek the truth, you will be healthy in the process, because the whole truth includes God, and simply to contemplate God is to be healed, even apart from any specifically healing work he does in you. God is truth (in the sense of "the opposite of lies and being lie-like"), trustworthiness, and settled goodness. And seeking the truth, even if you don't believe in God, can be therapeutic, to a degree.


On the other hand, if we define "healthy" as "maximizing well-being as defined by survival epistemology", then if anything threatens the supremacy of survival within us, it is unhealthy, by definition. The very possibility of there being truth, the possibility that there could be something that instantiates "truth" as it is defined, would be something that by definition could possibly turn out to say "disregard your well-being", and that threatens the absolute supremacy of survival. And, as it happens, God, the truth, does threaten survival epistemology.

I am very much torn between wanting to emphasize that God is in fact healthy to believe in and brings health (because I think that's true) and wanting to emphasize that health doesn't really matter in the end and that survival epistemology is very often survival idolatry. Truth is what really matters, that is, being in line with legitimacy, which is the same as God. Health matters to us RIGHT NOW, screams at us that it matters, twists us so that we bow down to it, and perhaps there's not much we can do but do so. Certainly the truth (that which satisfies the definition of truth, God) makes provision for healing us -- sometimes. But at some point, we have to learn to put God first, or else we will suffer a worse fate than anything life on earth threatens. We will lose our connection with reality, and we will lose out on life with God, which is the greatest loss either for those who live to love God or for those who live for their own well-beings.

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