Friday, February 20, 2009

Truth and Will

A prominent film director recently remarked, with regard to some facts in a script we had written for him, that he wished they weren't true, and he wondered aloud whether the script might not be changed so as to suggest the possibility that they are not.

This has led me to reflect that a common error is to posit will as being superior to truth. This error is embodied, of course, in the idea that truth is subjective, that it is a matter entirely for the individual conscience or intellect, and, hence, that morality is subjective and situational.

But this cannot be so, since, when the subject dies, the wish, or will, dies; the truth, however, does not die. Truth endures from generation to generation, from race to race, from time through eternity. It may be discovered by the will, enacted by the will, but it is not dependent on the will. Truth is always and everywhere true regardless of the individual perception; for if truth is a product of perception, then truth is no more than an illusion - the fabrication of the individual consciousness. This approach shreds truth to ribbons, reducing it to the fey and transient musings of the moment, rendering it susceptible of change, distortion, and disillusion.

Will is a function of the individual; truth is not a function of anything. It stands alone, outside of time and consciousness, but when it intersects with life, its requirements are powerful, indeed, inescapable. The sensation of this power in the individual is what we call conscience. We all possess it, though many of us try to escape it, and the principle route of escape is the idea that truth is subjective. If this is so, then our values are sufficient to themselves, and are freed from judgment by any outside force. Some think that this approach makes them free, but they are mistaken; rather, it makes them victims of every other version of truth that may come along. And if one of those versions of truth achieves power, we all become victims. This is a phenomenon we have experienced in every generation of humanity; in my own time, in Nazism and Communism.

Truth is superior to will. Indeed, will is powerless in any meaningful sense, without recourse to truth. Truth informs and gives substance to perception; perception does not shape truth. Will belongs to truth, not the other way around. Will endures only for a matter of moments; truth endures forever.