In the discourse we call philosophy, noncognitive interests are in play, interests that compete with, threaten to interfere with if not overwhelm the interest in knowing the truth. Brand Blanshard—the one member of my pantheon of former philosophical heroes whom I could have met, but now regret never having exerted myself to do so—acknowledged their efficacy:
What our intelligence wants is, of course, the truth. What the rest of our nature asks from our intelligence is not what is true but what will satisfy. By that we mean what will appease our impulsive and emotional nature, our longing to be liked, our desire to see our future secure, our character respected, our faith vindicated, our party shown to be the party of sober sense, or nation triumphant. When one considers how hidden and barricaded the truth commonly is, how definite it is, allowing no alternative, how feeble is our passion for it, and how overwhelming the tendencies in us to look for it through distorting prisms, the wonder is not that most of us are irrational but that some of us are as rational as we are.
He denied, however, that non-cognitive interests smothered the interest in truth. He thought it worthwhile to cultivate the latter to see (almost experimentally, ironically enough) how far one could go if one gave reason its head.
Unlike Blanshard’s empiricist and pragmatist critics, however, I affirm an irreducibly distinct love of truth. But that’s because I presuppose that the One who is Truth (John 14:6) created the context within which human truth-seeking takes place and makes sense. Continue reading “Brand Blanshard: rationalism’s “working hypothesis” and the Van Tilian verdict”