I am acting the lemming and introducing myself now that I've just joined. For one, I major in biochemistry and molecular biology, but I am intensely interested in the written word nonetheless. I speak three languages and am a lover of all sorts of genres, predominantly European lit. (e.g., Joyce, Yeats, Eliot, Shakespeare, etc.) and analytical philosophy (e.g. Russell, Wittgenstein, Kant), although I'd like to think that I'm a good dilettante and thus have pretty much read at least a little bit of everything. I am always reading at least one book in my leisure time regardless of my "real" duties. I personally think (arrogantly, perhaps) that to some degree every adult of average intelligence and above should be concerned with literature/philosophy; it really irks me how little people read today, and that the height of culture for the average girl I meet in a bar is "Punk'd" with Ashton Kutcher... but I'm sure all of you as good English majors were already aware of that and have probably wept hundreds of pints of brine over it.
OK, well, I am a huge fan of polemics, and have sincerely believed all my life that the truth gains more by the diligence of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by him who holds the true opinion only because he does not suffer himself to think. (Oh, you recognized John Stuart Mill? How nice to be around English majors! I would have put it in quotes but I don't think it's verbatim...) Being a lover of polemics has, quite naturally, brought me my fair share of unpopularity, so I'd like to say in advance that I never intentionally hurt anyone's feelings! Take that for what it's worth.
My first question is a timeless one, and I'm sure many of you have turned it over in your head a thousand times ... and it is this: as rational (or irrational, depending on your opinion) creatures, shouldn't the truth be our highest desideratum? Or should we be more concerned with maximizing happiness, or something else, regardless of what the "truth" is? In other words, if we're not seeking the truth in everything we do, then are we wasting our lives? What does everyone think?
Before you start thinking (or writing, whichever you do first), realize that I'm taking two things for granted here - 1) absolute truth exists (for you "relativism" people, although this is really absolutely true by tautology) and 2) this is an "ideal" situation, although after you answer the question for the ideal case, you can mention "practical" concerns as an afterthought. An important side question is this - if we're meant to realize truth in all of our actions, then how do we recognize what is and isn't the truth? "Logic" is a useful (the only?) example. I'm curious to know what everyone here thinks, given the predominant "humanities" background.
(BTW, this is not a homework question of any sort, so please don't accuse me of scrabbling for homework help... that's what AOL is for.)