Well.Should we indeed make a point of valuing truth? Not surprisingly, that depends on what we mean. Sometimes "truth" is used (usually – but not only, alas – by non-philosophers) as a name for a kind of commodity or stuff, like knowledge is, rather than for a property that a proposition has, or not, in virtue of the relation between its content (meaning) and the way the world is. Although this usage can be innocent (as in the pragmatist motto "seek truth, avoid error"), it can also blur the very real conceptual difference between truth and knowledge, thus making the following points more controversial than they should be. (It can also lead to confusing talk about "kinds of truth," which would be better thought of as domains of inquiry or discourse.)
First, perhaps it is too obvious to mention, but it can't be that what is to be valued is that there is such a thing as truth, i.e., that there are truths. All that would mean is that we are speaking a language; but while I suppose I'm glad we're discursive creatures, that can't be what truth-valuers value. What use is it to me, for example, that "Eto ne moy plotok" correctly denotes a certain state of affairs if I don't know which state of affairs that is? In order for truths to be valuable, or for truth to be a goal, I need to have access to them somehow, and it is that that must be the locus of value, not the truths themselves; so maybe it is the value of knowledge that we are meant to affirm.
However, this doesn't seem right either. The value of knowledge, while more easily debated, is a fairly straightforward matter, philosophically speaking. Naturally we can think of plenty of things we are better off knowing than not knowing (or being deceived about). But clearly not every particular thing is worth knowing; indeed, the vast majority of truths are entirely worthless as knowledge. It is presumably either true or false (pace verificationists) that the word "marble" was used at least once on October 12, 1977 within a six-meter radius centered at a particular spot in the Fulton Fish Market. But who cares? (Of course we could make up a story in which we might need to know this. But so what.) Some knowledge is even downright dangerous. On the other hand, we can hardly make sense of a choice between knowledge and ignorance in general. Believing only falsehoods – having no knowledge at all – isn't even conceptually possible. Even Thomas Anderson (Neo pre-red pill in The Matrix) has plenty of true beliefs (but let's not go there today).
If the value of knowledge in this (uninteresting) sense is the value of belief (that P) given the truth of P, maybe we can do better switching it around: what is the value of the truth of P given belief that P? This keeps the focus on the value of truth, while preserving the connection to belief without which, as we saw up top, the question makes no sense.
So, do we really want our beliefs to be true? This too is ambiguous. In one sense, it's not an issue about truth at all, but about our desires. Given that you believe the world to be a certain way, do you really prefer (what you see as) the actual state of affairs to, say, this other one? I believe that the hurricane was devastating, but I would be happy to be wrong about that; I would prefer that my belief be false (but it isn't, alas). In another sense, this reverts to the question about knowledge – the value of true belief. If my beliefs are true, then, just as when truths are believed, the epistemic connection to the world is made; but we've already seen that this may or may not be valuable.
A third sense must be what is intended. As the aletheiaphiles present the matter, the issue is one of the threat of instrumentalism, or skepticism, or nihilism, or all at once. Richard Rorty famously denies that justification-transcendent truth is a goal of inquiry, or even that there is any such thing in the first place; and this will never do. The question is this: given that you believe something (i.e., because it pays to do so, and has established its value already, say in terms of prediction and control), do you place an additional value on its being true as well as useful? Rorty claims that he cannot see what point there could possibly be to this. But if you do not go beyond valuing utility, we are encouraged to complain, you are (if I may borrow a phrase from elsewhere) an epistemic "free rider": belief without ontological commitment, that is, has all the advantages of doxastic theft over honest ontological toil. But does this accusation, and the accompanying apotheosis of truth, get at our real interest here?
Now I agree with the truth-lovers in a certain limited sense: we should indeed reject instrumentalism, skepticism, and nihilism. This may not seem to be a limited sense, but as we shall see, it amounts to somewhat less than they suggest. Again, our claim cannot be that there is no such thing as a useful fiction (or even a pious fraud); clearly there is. Rather, it must be that we should not elevate this fact into a general attitude toward truth, like that what matters in inquiry is the consequences of believing P, rather than that P is true. But this – rightly claimed as a "truism" by Lynch, but brandished as if it were a substantive result – is simply a condition of having beliefs at all. (In fact, Lynch's "truism" is that "truth is a worthy goal of inquiry," which is confused – it's like saying that "arriving at the solution is a worthy goal of doing a puzzle." If you're not trying to get the solution, you're not "doing the puzzle" at all.) It makes no sense to deny the "value of truth" in inquiry; but by the same token it makes no sense to affirm it either (i.e., as something that transcends what is normally available to us as the result of inquiry). One inquires, and forms beliefs, or one does not; and one cannot not believe.
The anti-skeptical point, as shown for example by Myles Burnyeat some time ago re: ancient skepticism, is that it is incoherent to take a third-person point of view on your own beliefs (although Burnyeat himself did not press the matter any farther). If you believe something, inquiry is over: the issue is settled. This doesn't mean you're stuck with your beliefs, as you may always reopen the matter. But to do so is to remove the proposition in question from your beliefs and put it into doubt; and doubt is only intelligible against a background of settled belief. So (at least on the pragmatist cum Davidsonian view I recommend) we never say: this belief of mine might be false; for to say of something that it might be false is to regard the issue of its truth as no longer settled – and thus no longer a belief at all.
Making a similar (but not identical) point (and ironically providing Rorty, who is otherwise not a big fan, with pragmatist cover), Peirce claimed that the goal of inquiry is not truth but belief: you may think you want truth, but once you believe, you find that that is sufficient (I can look up the quote if you want). The thought is right, but the conclusion is not – because once you believe, you thereby ipso facto believe that you know the truth; so of course fixation of belief is sufficient. What would be superfluous would be a purported philosophical demonstration that our beliefs are true, either individually or collectively. If you really do believe, you feel no need for such a "demonstration"; and if you don't believe, then such a demonstration wouldn't apply (as it applies only to beliefs).
As may be evident by now, an important confusion (or systematic conflation) that can cause trouble here is between "belief" as a) a proposition qua believed (never mind by whom), and b) a proposition actually believed by the agent in question. These must be kept distinct. Again: take a belief of mine, any belief. If I cease to believe it, now I see it as possibly false. So the belief is possibly false? No, the proposition is possibly false as far as I'm concerned: I'm in doubt. Once I give it up, it's not a "belief" at all. Maybe someone else believes it; then it's a belief of theirs.
Once the anti-skeptical point is in place, the anti-instrumental and anti-nihilist points follow quickly (or are superfluous; on the other hand, this is not to say that related metaphysical and methodological unconfusing – of realist and anti-realist alike – isn't necessary to keep the anti-skeptical point in place, as skepticism naturally reactivates in the presence of dogmatism). So, to sum up: the value of truth has to mean the value of true belief, lest it mean the value of there being truths at all; but it turns out to be impossible to isolate the truth component of true belief as the object of value – the value of true belief ends up being either 1) the value of the world's being a certain way, or 2) of our knowing that the world is the way it is (either for the informative value of true belief or for the instrumental value of lacking false belief), or 3) of our believing what we believe given that we believe it (or something). The first two aren't what we were after, and the third doesn't make any sense. Our concern is really with belief and inquiry properly construed; but that noble goal is remarkably poorly advanced with such slogans as "truth matters."
I was going to run through Lynch's WMD example, but there are so many conflations and confusions in there that we better save it. Next time.