I quoted him the other day here in the wake of the same-sex marriage biz in New York State. He’s caught some heat for his position, but along the way, he’s found that one of his ostensible supporters argues that even if there is such a thing as absolute truth, those who would claim, or even seek such a thing are dangerous. This brings me to his rebuttal, upon which I groove strenuously:
I can understand where the reader is coming from. A few people who speak of “absolute truth” and rail against “relativism” are motivated not by a love of truth but merely by a desire to bully others into accepting their opinions. But that’s not true of most people. And even if it were, giving up on the search for truth — on the idea that there is a truth —- will have only one certain consequence: The bad guys will win. The Yeats line is a cliché now, but that’s only because it’s recognizably true: The worst are, indeed, full of passionate intensity.
The fight for truth is a tough one, but we must not abandon it. I hold out a hope, based largely on my religious faith, that magna est veritas et praevalebit; but I expect that the realization of this hope will be eschatological, not historical. In the meantime, I think the best we can hope for is what was expressed in the translation of that great Latin saying that our esteemed colleague John Derbyshire taught me: “Truth is mighty, and will prevail a bit.” [Emphasis mine — Prof. M]
As it happens, I’m teaching Yeats tomorrow — including the poem with the famous quotation. I love the way these things fall together sometimes.