Seculative agnosticism and practical belief

Start with Voltaire’s line that “if God did not exist…”, etc. the idea can be taken in more than one way, but at its most believable it involves bracketing the question of God’s existence or knowability, but noticing we still need him as a postulate of the moral life (Kant), or as an irreducible element of human experience (James) or as an evolved brain structure selected for group cohesion and contributing in various ways to reproductive fitness.

At some point, of course, we need some kind of answer to the bracketed question, and I doubt the speculative agnosticism and the practical belief can be lived out, which is to say I doubt whether this state of affairs can have either speculative or practical truth. At some point you’ll have to lie or consent to the lies of others, demanding someone believe without question what you don’t believe and/or do question. You’ll consent to the idea that some group (the kids, the peasants, etc) be told princess Alice stories about God to keep them in line, but lying gives something which, given to you, is an offense against who you are, and so by lying you are either (a) treating another person as subhuman or (b) treating him as human, and therefore hating him.

No one wants to be deceived. To argue that someone might want it ends up proving the opposite, since we only “want to be deceived” in the sense that we want to believe that something is true without knowing that it isn’t. But then what we want is something precisely like truth, and if we try to make an argument for “good deceptions” out of this we get…

Things like truth are good

Some lies are like truth

Some lies are good.

…which isn’t good for anything except as an example of the fallacy of the accident, since the way in which things like truth are good excludes whatever is like truth but in fact is not. This is why no one never wills to-be-deceived-and-not-know-it as such, even if such a state can be like knowing truth.

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