Andrew raised some interesting questions in this week's PhilSoc discussion: why do we care about truth? Is there a risk of 'truthaholism', taking a good thing too far (to the detriment of other values)? Is it perhaps the process of inquiry, the journey rather than the destination, that we find most valuable in philosophy?
Of course, the truth will sometimes have great instrumental importance, as in medical science. But it's less clear what really hangs on the outcome of certain abstract philosophical debates. It may be that the truth here doesn't really matter for any other purpose at all. The question then is whether it matters for its own sake.
Jack suggests a helpful thought experiment. Suppose you had a magic 8-ball that would tell you the true answer to any philosophical question. Would this be a good thing? Bracket any instrumental benefits that the truth might yield. Just so far as the intrinsic value of philosophy is concerned, would it be a good thing for philosophy to come to an end in this way? Intuitively, there seems something deeply appalling about this scenario. This suggests that it's really the process of philosophical inquiry, rather than the end-point of truth, that we most value.
But I wonder. Perhaps the thought experiment has the wrong end in mind. There does seem something cheap and superficial about the "truths" delivered by a magic 8-ball. But this is not all that we usually have at the end of inquiry. Our best philosophy does not culminate in a mere 'yes' or 'no' answer. Rather, it gives rise to a deeper level of understanding; an appreciation of why the answer is what it is. (Or perhaps not even that -- just a deeper understanding of the question, and the various possible answers, may be plenty valuable in itself.)
So suppose you could get a brain implant that would provide you with a full understanding of a philosophical topic, without the investment of time and effort that is usually required to obtain such learning. Is that a good thing?
I don't think the answer is entirely obvious. But I lean towards thinking that it would be good. I think it really is the end-point of understanding which I most value, and not the struggle of getting there. What do you think?