instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, January 12, 2004

A motto of the Order

Veritas -- Truth -- is one of the mottoes of the Dominican Order. Obviously, the Order isn't for everyone.

Disinterest in the question of whether something is true (rather than useful, or convenient, or calming, or adequate) is not the same thing as belief that nothing is true. Several of the things I mentioned in the previous post were said by active Catholics, who from all evidence believe not only that objective truth exists but that the Catholic Church is capable of dogmatically declaring what is objectively true. They aren't relativists, properly speaking, but relatively unimportantists.

Yes, people can and do grieve over lost pets. But to demand, during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayers for a dead pet's soul goes beyond harmless comfort and into ... well, a lot of other discussions, but here it suffices to say that the Mass is for us men and our salvation, not for cats and dogs.

But that doesn't seem to matter to a lot of people. There is a good to be obtained, and whether truth must be sacrificed to obtain the good isn't a question that even occurs to people. They aren't consequentialists, because they don't even consider adverse consequences; they're inconsequentialists.

As someone for whom truth is an extraordinarily important matter, I have a hard time dealing with this; inconsequentialist statements tend to leave me silent. They somehow introduce an etiquette into the conversation, making it bad form to even ask, "But is it true?"

I can discuss things, and I can dispute things, but when a conversation becomes a sequence of unquestionable opinions in which the question of truth can't even be raised, I usually find I have nothing to say.

I may have to add, "But is it true?" to my list of all-purpose replies.