The Noble Lie

by Max Andrews

In 1991 L. D. Rue confronted the issue of absurdity and boldly advocated that man should deceive himself by means of a “Noble Lie” into believe that the universe still has value.[1]  By denying any objective teleology, self-fulfillment becomes radically privatized:  each person chooses his own set of values and meaning.  One has no choice but to embrace some Noble Lie that will inspire one to live beyond selfish interests.  The Noble Lie “is one that deceives us, tricks us, and compels us beyond self-interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, [and] race.” “Without such lies, we cannot live.”[2]

Rue’s Noble Lie does not appear to solve the notion of absurdity.  Why should one sacrifice self-interest for a fiction?  The Noble Lie is the greatest placebo that accomplishes its feat of illusion.  Rue’s problem, as for anyone who constructs any Noble Lie, is that he values deeply personal fulfillment and wholeness.  This would include objective values, which according to his philosophy do not exist.  The Noble Lie option thus affirms what it denies and so refutes itself.[3]

[1] L. D. Rue, “The Saving Grace of Noble Lies,” address to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, February 1991. As cited in William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith ed. 3 (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2008), 84-85.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 87-88.

3 Comments to “The Noble Lie”

  1. It kind of makes you wonder what the point of perusing truth is if when you find it you embrace a noble lie.
    I would have thought that if a relentless search for the truth revealed nihilism then it was a fairly good indication that you got something wrong along the way. My guess would be an over reliance on reductionist thought.

  2. I would argue that the fact a Noble Lie refutes itself is the entire point of the theory; that absurdity is inevitable.
    The choice of life you must then take, if you do not live by a Noble Lie, is relative and therefore invites nihilism into our exsistence.
    Extreme scenarios are self-fullfilment without any social coherence (liberal anarchy) or social coherence without any self-fullfilment (1984, George Orwell).
    The only option we have is to deceive ourselves and create a Noble Lie that allows us to live on a ‘universal’ foundation of principles; though there are none.

    Therefore this absurdist solution shows us that no solution is possible without deceit.

    Guess it’s time for humanity to give God some CPR.

  3. The belief that we are nothing more than string-less meat puppets is the Naturalistic belief that is self-refuting because it says simultaneously that matter (i.e., Materialist Reductionism: Chemistry, Biology or Physics) cannot impart meaning, while at the same time imparting meaning or interpretation to this putative using our physical brain. Really? Atoms are self-reflective or have consciousness given the correct complexity or proper configuration? But, how would atoms even know or care about consciousness?

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