A DIFFERENT SORT of difficulty afflicts utilitarian accounts of the value of truth and truthfulness. Williams revisits here his earlier criticism of an influential strain of utilitarianism, which wants to foster certain kinds of dispositions or habits in individuals as being in the long run the best mechanism for maximizing the good. Aware that individuals lack the necessary information, and that they would likely crack under the strain of attempting to regulate each of their choices by the standard of maximization, utilitarians offer qualified support for dispositions to justice, truthfulness, etc. But this kind of utilitarian program is, as Williams puts it, "unstable under reflection." On the one hand, for the policy to work, individuals must really care about justice and truth. On the other hand, if they have been brought up as good utilitarians, they will be deprived of precisely this sort of attitude toward justice and truth, since they will have been instructed that these values are merely instrumental. There is a "lack of fit between the spirit being justified and the spirit of the justification" that causes the construction to unravel if it is "exposed to reflection."
The Mormons resort to asking you to pray about the truthfulness of the church. I had several people that claimed they did the same thing with their church and felt the same feelings we often described for the truthfulness of the church. In fact a friend of mine, without knowing anything about the Mormon Church described the exact feelings we would use as Mormons, only he was given a hug by a supposed reincarnated being from the Hindu religion. He bawled like a baby. How about that, try as I might I could never doctrinally justify God responding to another person with a conflicting message.
Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy :: …
Truth in the humanities, especially in history, can never achieve the clarity and consensus to which the hard sciences naturally aspire. Yet the value of truth and the virtues of truthfulness are no less operative in the humanities than in the sciences. To sort out the role of truth in our lives, Williams offers in "Truth and Truthfulness" a sort of genealogy of human society, arguing that the need for cooperation and trust in any society places a premium on truthfulness.
Josh said: Probably better than Ethics and the Limits..
The need for virtues of truthfulness is an acknowledgment on Williams's part that truth is very often a difficult achievement. We cannot rely upon some breezy faith in the free "marketplace of ideas." Williams has in mind Oliver Wendell Holmes's defense of the First Amendment as the "best test of truth." Williams counters that this would be the case only in an "idealized market." The marketplace of ideas generates all sorts of distracting noise and provides no structural context for real debate. By contrast, the scientific community, even the university community, is a "managed market." Williams is not thinking here of speech codes, but simply of the fact that to teach, or even to become a student, one has to meet certain publicly stipulated criteria. And there are, or ought to be, shared and publicly acknowledged standards for research and argumentation.
[Bernard Arthur Owen Williams] -- What does it mean to be truthful
Williams observes that unsettling questions about truth have been on the table at least since Nietzsche, whom Williams does an excellent job of rescuing from the often-shrill and always-dogmatic deniers of truth. "Truth and Truthfulness" addresses these questions in a clear and cogent--if, finally, no more than introductory--manner. The academic alternative to taking up the challenge of truth is not an invigorating revolutionary politics, but something rather banal. "The study of the humanities runs a risk of sliding from professional seriousness," Williams wisely observes, "through professionalization, to a finally disenchanted careerism."
On the Genealogy of Morality - Wikipedia
The other chief virtue of truthfulness is accuracy, which consists in "a desire for truth for its own sake--a passion for getting it right." It involves the use of appropriate methods of investigation, some of which are more truth-conducive than others. Williams speaks of an "economy of inquiry." Given the limited time and resources any individual can devote to discovering the truth about a particular subject, there are always questions about whether one has done enough work of the right sort to determine the truth. In this, we face all sorts of obstacles, for example, laziness and especially "desires and wishes" that "subvert the acquisition of true belief." Thus, in addition to methods of investigation, accuracy also has to do with the will, with attitudes and desires, the habits of resisting wishful thinking, self-deception, and fantasy.