Truth and Reality
Truth is such a fundamental and simple idea that it is difficult to define. While it generally applies to abstract ideas, it describes things that are real, and hence it describes reality as a whole. This includes the world we live in and our daily lives, hence truth defines what constitutes each of our environments. In order to interact with our environments and achieve even basic goals we need to know the truth about at least some of the things involved.
Even a task as simple as getting from one place to another requires someone to know about the reality of the physical space between the two points. If they are not able to determine where they are or where their destination is, they will likely never get there, and if they did they would not realise they had arrived. If they cannot determine the physical space between the two points, for example is they cannot see the hallway between two rooms, or they cannot feel the walls and doors, then they cannot know that they are travelling or even that there is a path to travel. Even if they had the senses to gather this information, they must be able to process and understand it as truth in order for them to use this information to travel down the hallway. To know where you are in 3D space requires certain cognitive functions such as spatial awareness and depth perception, and if someone did not have that, the sight of a hallway might just be as indistinguishable as a piece of modern art to them. If we cannot determine the truth about any of these things, if we cannot even understand what a place is, then we cannot reliably perform the basic task of travel, except by trusting others to help you do so.
How we interact with and interpret reality depends on our interpretation of it. If our interpretation is wrong, then our abilities to interact with our environment, and to achieve our goals are hindered. We may still operate on luck, but this is unreliable.
Truth and Science
A jet engine cannot be expected to be built by luck; the scientific advancements required to even understand how it would function took hundreds of years to figure out. This kind of research is done through science, which is a method by which we determine the truth about the physical world. If we tried to build a jet engine without knowing about aerodynamics, we would never know what shape to make the blades. If we tried to learn about aerodynamics but developed untrue theories, then we could build fan blades, but they likely would not work. There are simply too many parts to an engine, or a fusion reactor, or a space shuttle that require us to know the truth about physics and reality for us to simply rely on luck.
While we need to accept the truth in order to perform basic functions in the world, some truths are inconvenient to us. They may make us sad, or they may compel us to act in certain ways we do not want to, especially if they counter productive for us. It is often then easier for us to reject the truth to avoid sadness, or for personal gain. If accepting that a loved one has died will cause us to be sad, and we do not want to be sad, then some people will choose to reject it. This of course goes against the virtue of truth, and will likely cause psychological issues in the future, but these truths are also rejected or ignored for the sake of avoiding sadness. Obviously as a result, it is quite likely they will suffer more by rejecting what is inconvenient to them, in exchange for relief in the present. We can also reject moral truths, and take others’ money because we want to buy something. In reality we are causing others suffering so that we can have pleasure, but as this is inconvenient and stops us from getting what we want, we ignore it.
These are selfish, shortsighted actions that reject the way things are in order to satisfy our desires. Many immoral or harmful actions are caused by desires such as these, and they are facilitated by the denial of reality. It is easier to kill people if we don’t think about how they are real people like us, with hopes and dreams and rights. It is only our questionable desire for things that push us to do things like this (with the exceptions of sadism, insanity, moral obligation, etc.), and so we are presented with the choice of following our desires or doing what we know is right. Here I mean “right” both in the sense of truth and in the sense of morality. In such a situation, our desires often overpower us with the temptation of pleasure. As such we make the wrong choice and to avoid feeling bad about it, we reject a part of reality to be at peace.
It is exactly this need to be at peace, among the more obvious things, that shows why denial is wrong. The only reason we feel the need to fool ourselves into believing these lies is because we already know what we’re doing is wrong. If we didn’t think it was wrong, there would be no need to be in denial.
Denial and Reality
If we deny the truth, our ability to act in reality is severely hindered. If we think that butter is healthy, and if we want to lose weight, then eating a lot of butter will be counter productive to our goal of losing weight. If we think that red is the same as blue, then we will cause a lot of unnecessary confusion when referring to colours with other people. We will be unable to specify whether we want a blue phone case or a red one, other than by pointing at one. We can also reject the process of determining truth, and instead assume something as true. If we assume that a friend wants a whiskey, and we buy them a whiskey as a gift, it may turn out that they do not drink at all, and so we would have wasted our money.