What is more important, people’s perception of truth or objective truth? The answer will depend on what we value the most. If we value truth the most then what is objectively true is going to be the most important. But what if we value wellbeing the most? And what if we are talking about things like equality, democracy and health?
If someone thinks they live in an equal society and has equal rights, and we value wellbeing most highly, then isn’t their perception more important than the truth? They will be content thinking they live in an equal society even if this is not true. And what if someone thinks they live in an unequal society but they actually live in an equal one? Then what good is the truth if one does not, or refuses to, perceive it? If we don’t perceive things how they are then what good is truth to us?
How we perceive things is the most important thing to us personally but how things actually are is the most important thing to reality. Most of us think we want to know the truth rather than what is comfortable but this is not always the case. And why, for example, do some of us that live in a fair and just society that gives equal opportunities to everyone still think we live in desperate inequality and oppression, despite having all the opportunities afforded to them as anyone else in that society?
One interesting reason is that we don’t actually want to know what is true and the logical reasoning skills most of us have were not actually developed to find out what is objectively true. We may have developed our logical reasoning skills in order to persuade others that we are right, not to find out what is actually right. We come up with articulate arguments and well thought out points as a form of confirmation bias to confirm to ourselves that we are right and bring others along with us.
Take for example the time when women were getting the right to vote in the US. What is not often discussed is that a large percentage of the resistance to giving women the right to vote was coming from women. There are probably a lot of complicated reasons why many women protested their right to vote. There might have been cognitive dissonance but what we might say is that they perceived truth and wellbeing differently than the suffragettes. They were happy with their perception of wellbeing and not what the majority perceived. And they came up with many arguments, using their logical reasoning, to convince others that women should not have the right to vote. Some of their arguments were:
- Men and women have different natural strengths.
- Women are nurturers, moral guardians and peacekeepers.
- Women spend too much time involved in family business to be educated on political matters.
- Politics will drive a wedge in the family.
As you can see the women against the suffrage used their skills of reasoning to develop arguments that, at the time, might have been convincing, especially to the ones who came up with them. We may look back now and wonder how anyone could protest their own rights and their own best interest, but at the time they had convinced themselves entirely.
Knowing all of this we can conclude several things; we must be wrong far more often than we think we are and perhaps even when we know we are right and have the most well thought out reasons; when others have developed very articulate arguments in an attempt to show you the truth they may just be trying to show themselves and others that they are right and not show you what is actually right; and lastly that our perception of reality is what we really care about and not, as we like to think, objective reality.