Today someone told me that “Ego is about who’s right and truth is about what’s right” and that therefore we should be careful when evaluating arguments because we tend to confuse the two. At first this sounds like a warning against making ad hominem attacks on others but upon a close look the idea is more profound.
We tend to agree that in many domains of life what we seek is the truth. We can also agree that truth is quite evasive and that our notion of what’s is true can change in the face of new evidence (for some people at least…). In the natural sciences truth seems to be the ultimate and only goal. Truth is also the holy grail in many other fields including finance, public administration, etc. Investors want to know if it’s true the markets will go up or down. Policymakers want to know if it’s true that a new tax will be the best way to fund healthcare. You get the point. Truth is important and we actively seek it in many different facets of life.
Thus, if truth is what really matters it shouldn’t matter where does it come from right? The truth is the truth. Period. If you accept something as truthful then it shouldn’t matter who said it. This might seem obvious but it is not. Our egos tend to get on the way and sometimes we define our truths based on who said and not the underlying arguments. This is how so many people end up following the life paths of others. If someone else that we hold in high esteem did something, then it means that must be THE way of doing things.
My thoughts are not fully fleshed out in this essay and this is just a stream of thoughts that I am having. However, I do think that the distinction between Ego and Truth is one worth examining more closely.