In Plato’s Republic, those whom Socrates calls the “lovers of the sight of the truth” detest falsehoods; they seek, and thirst for, only that which is truth, having “no taste for falsehood; that is, they are completely unwilling to admit what’s false but hate it, while cherishing the truth.”
Contemporary society, by contrast, has a confused relationship with truth, which led Oxford Dictionaries to select “post-truth” as the Word of the Year 2016. In the last several years, the West has accepted ideas that are wholly incompatible with the most basic truths about the natural male-and-female sex dichotomy. Individuals are encouraged to choose their own gender, while all others are expected to accept fully these choices and to defer to other’s “preferred pronouns.” Of all things, bathroom access has become the next great “civil rights” struggle; women are supposed to welcome men, and vice versa, into their restrooms. They are labeled as excluding to others if they have any misgivings about the imposed arrangement.
The character of these demands should not be underestimated. One is not simply witnessing a decay of morals among a small minority, and an increase in libertinism and lasciviousness. With gender ideology, what one sees is a fanatical minority attempting to compel the majority to conform to false teachings. Falsity is, as Aristotle put it, “to say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is”—and that is exactly what the gender ideologues want all others to do. These individuals want everyone to participate in a great offense against truth.
Writing in the early 1990s, Russell Kirk observed that the contemporary “sophists,” as he called them, “have created in the murky caves of the intellect an Underworld; and they endeavor to convince us all that there exists no sun.” In fact, as one shall see, the gender ideologues are trying to convince themselves that there is no sun, by trying to eradicate the evidence that contradicts their faulty first principles.
Lovers of truth, now more than ever, must resist falsehood and proclaim the truth.
Hiding from the Sun
A recent incident illuminates the detrimental transgenderist illogic. This year, a New Jersey woman, who alleges that she is a man, filed suit against St. Joseph’s Healthcare System because its New Jersey hospital, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, refused to perform the hysterectomy she requested. The institution thought it perverse—and certainly outside the practice of medicine—to dismember and remove her apparently healthy uterus and cervix.
The woman was reportedly preauthorized by Medicaid, the federal- and state-financed public health insurance coverage for low-income Americans, to receive the hysterectomy. The woman, thirty-three years old, had already surgically mutilated her body, having both of her breasts removed in 2014. According to her complaint, a surgeon at St. Joseph’s had agreed to perform the procedure. However, on the day the operation was scheduled, St. Joseph’s halted the surgery, citing its Catholic identity. The hospital follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services promulgated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and argues that it could not, in conscience, allow the medically unnecessary removal of a healthy organ to occur within its walls.
The woman would soon after undergo the procedure elsewhere, at a non-Catholic hospital, but in retaliation for causing her what she terms “humiliation,” she is suing the hospital for monetary damages and is demanding a court order to require St. Joseph’s to perform similar mutilations in the future. St. Joseph’s has stood by its decision.
Creating One’s Own Truth
In demanding that St. Joseph’s help her destroy a healthy female reproductive organ, the woman engaged in a vain attempt to conform the reality of the body to her own mental “truth,” and she expected the hospital to participate in the attempt at creating an unreality. For the lover of truth, it is hubris of the greatest proportion to demand that others affirm falsehood.
Beyond the hubris, the case is one of classic philosophical illogic. The “first principle” that the transgenderist needs simply is not there, for a woman is not and cannot be a man. So in order to prove the faulty first principle, the transgenderist tries to “create” it, to make it appear to be true. The gender ideologue removes all evidence that conflicts with the transgender principle, surgically mutilating her body and pumping it full of testosterone—for her body, being a woman’s body, is not producing “enough” of that hormone naturally. Even then, the principle’s falsity remains all too evident, so the transgenderist must force others to agree that a woman is a man. For gender ideology, the truth is a great obstacle that must be attacked and destroyed.
Gender ideology does not fit into the definition of mere relativism, for that would not explain why only some truths must be accepted and accommodated. If the argument were that everyone creates his own truth that others must accept and accommodate, then why not accept and accommodate the declaration of the Catholic hospital that, in deference to the truth of the natural male-female dichotomy, it cannot, in conscience or in justice, mutilate its patients?
Of course, no answer to the question is forthcoming. As in the case of so many other arguments one sees today, there is no intention to apply the supposition consistently. The premise that everyone creates his own truth contains a concealed asterisk, which states: only select “truths” are to be accepted and respected—only those that validate progressive society’s presupposed first principles.
Proper first principles are a grasping of what is, of truth. Consequently, first principles can never be created by human action, no matter how hard one tries. The truth does not change according to one’s sentiments. On the other hand, disordered first principles beget disordered reasoning and inevitably lead to disordered conclusions. Like the pleasures of the passionate part of the soul, the treatments meant to conceal and mask the truth can only be temporary.
Bringing Light to the World
The truth will always prevail in the end, but that does not prevent damage from being done in the meantime. When society is not in accord with truth, a dark void is created, covering the light of truth and extending a welcoming invitation to the evil that dwells in darkness. In such a society, the many are destined to lead disordered, confused lives, controlled and manipulated by those who capitalize on their confusion and ignorance of truth—as one sees now, with larger numbers of distressed individuals seeking mutilation procedures because their authority figures peddle falsehoods. The acceptance, toleration, and encouragement of basic untruths maim the people’s ability to understand properly basic first principles; it impairs their trust of authorities that promulgate the truth and that have only their flourishing at heart.
The proper cultivation of the soul requires direction, for if one is to act correctly, one must be cognizant of what acting correctly entails. To will the proper end, one must first apprehend the proper end. It is no accident, then, that obstacles to true apprehension impair the pursuit of happiness. Hence the reason for the Church recognizing the instruction of the ignorant as one of the spiritual works of mercy, and the reason why Socrates thought the possessor of truth had a duty to share it. St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center resisted the attempt to acquiesce to falsehood, and as a result, is now facing legal challenges. It is now the duty of the lovers of truth to follow St. Joseph’s example and to resist contemporary Western society’s tyrannical directives to submit to untruths.
Fortunately, with the Trump administration’s recent decision to withdraw the previous administration’s bathroom-access guidelines for educational institutions, there is an opening, and the time is ripe for battle. Notwithstanding interference from the legislative and judicial branches, the battle for truth going forward will probably be fought on decentralized battlefields: in states, localities, and on school boards. Lovers of truth cannot expect an easy victory, decreed from on high. Like St. Joseph’s, all must be prepared to shun falsehood and to defend the truth.
Gerard T. Mundy teaches philosophy at Saint Peter’s University, Jersey City.