Confess, ye miscreants, sight unseen, the truth of what I have proclaimed, or meet my vengeance in the field of battle!
Notes from the Golden Orange
EppsNet Archive: Truth
The notion that we have limited access to the workings of our minds is difficult to accept because, naturally, it is alien to our experience but it is true: You know far less about yourself than you feel you do.
A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth.
It is the consistency of information that matters for a good story, not its completeness. Indeed, you will often find that knowing little makes it easier to fit everything you know into a coherent pattern.
The exaggerated faith in small samples is only one example of a more general illusion — we pay more attention to the content of messages than to information about their reliability, and as a result end up with a view of the world around us that is simpler and more coherent than the data justify.
Narrative fallacies arise inevitably from our continuous attempt to make sense of the world. The explanatory stories that people find compelling are simple; are concrete rather than abstract; assign a larger role to talent, stupidity, and intentions than to luck; and focus on a few striking events that happened rather than on the countless events that failed to happen.
Hindsight bias has pernicious effects on the evaluations of decision makers. It leads observers to assess the quality of a decision not be whether the process was sound but by whether its outcome was good or bad. . . . This outcome bias makes it almost impossible to evaluate a decision properly – in terms of the beliefs that were reasonable when the decision was made.
Stories of how businesses rise and fall strike a chord with readers by offering what the human mind needs: a simple message of triumph and failure that identifies clear causes and ignores the determinative power of luck and the inevitability of regression. These stories induce and maintain an illusion of understanding, imparting lessons of little enduring value to readers who are all too anxious to believe them.
For some of our most important beliefs we have no evidence at all, except that people we love and trust hold those beliefs.
Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.
We know that people can maintain an unshakable faith in any proposition, however absurd, when they are sustained by a community of like-minded believers.
The idea that the future is unpredictable is undermined every day by the ease with which the past is explained. . . Everything makes sense in hindsight . . . And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight was predictable yesterday. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.
[Philip Tetlock, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania] interviewed 284 people who made their living “commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends. . . . In all, Tetlock gathered more than 80,000 predictions. . . . Respondents were asked to rate the probabilities of three alternative outcomes in every case: the persistence of the status quo, more of something such as political freedom or economic growth, or less of that thing.
The results were devastating. The experts performed worse than they would have if they had simply assigned equal probabilities to each of the three potential outcomes. In other words, people who spend their time, and earn their living, studying a particular topic produce poorer predictions than dart-throwing monkeys who would have distributed their choices evenly over the options. Even in the region they knew best, experts were not significantly better than nonspecialists.
Rehearse the mantra that will get you significantly closer to economic reality: you win a few, you lose a few.
Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.
During the last 10 years we have learned many new facts about happiness. But we have also learned that the word happiness does not have a simple meaning and should not be used as if it does. Sometimes scientific progress leaves us more puzzled than we were before.
“I tell you, Winston, that reality is not external. Reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Not in the individual mind, which can make mistakes, and in any case soon perishes: only in the mind of the Party, which is collective and immortal. Whatever the Party holds to be the truth, is truth. It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party. That is the fact that you have got to relearn, Winston. It needs an act of self-destruction, an effort of the will. You must humble yourself before you can become sane.”
I was never more hated than when I tried to be honest. Or when, even as just now I’ve tried to articulate exactly what I felt to be the truth. No one was satisfied — not even I. On the other hand, I’ve never been more loved and appreciated than when I tried to “justify” and affirm someone’s mistaken beliefs; or when I’ve tried to give my friends the incorrect, absurd answers they wished to hear. In my presence they could talk and agree with themselves, the world was nailed down, and they loved it.
What does it mean to say that you “know” something is true?
According to traditional philosophical thinking, you can be said to know that some proposition P is true if and only if:
- P is true.
- You believe that P is true.
- You are justified in believing that P is true.
These three conditions jointly form the concept of justified true belief (JTB).
As an example, let’s examine my claim that I know Paris is the capital of France. Unless an edict to the contrary has come down in the last few minutes, Paris is the capital of France, I believe that Paris is the capital of France, and I’m justified in believing that based on available evidence. So according to the concept of justified true belief, I know that Paris is the capital of France.
Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s say I wake up in the morning, look at the clock (let’s make it an old-fashioned analog clock), and it shows the time as 7:30. And let’s say that the time is in fact 7:30, but that, unknown to me, the clock has stopped. Do I “know” that the time is 7:30? My belief that the time is 7:30 is correct, but is it knowledge — or is it more of a lucky guess?
Another thought experiment: Given the following scenario, do I “know” that my wife is in the house? I come home from work and see my wife in the kitchen. As it happens though, what I see in the kitchen is actually a perfectly rendered hologram. My wife is in the house though, but she’s upstairs where I can’t see her. Again, the three JTB conditions are true, but my justification for belief has nothing to do with the truth of the matter.
These types of thought experiments are called Gettier problems, named for Edmund Gettier, who in 1963 published a paper called “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”
everything is permitted
absolute freedom of movement
that is, without leaving the cage
2+2 doesn’t make 4:
once it made 4 but
today nothing is known in this regard
Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth. — Oscar Wilde
Even though sin and injustice and temptation are all around us, we know that there is on this earth a holy man, a saint who is just and knows the truth, and this means that truth and justice have not vanished from the earth and so will come to us too and rule over all the world as has been promised.
I don’t have a problem with someone using their talents to become successful, I just don’t think the highest calling is success. Things like freedom and the expansion of knowledge are beyond success, beyond the personal. Personal success is not wrong, but it is limited in importance, and once you have enough of it it is a shame to keep striving for that, instead of for truth, beauty, or justice.
Speak the truth, then leave immediately.
We have to live today by what truth we can get today and be ready tomorrow to call it falsehood. — William James
Did Laius obey Apollo? Did he not go away in his drunken stupor and dismiss the oracle from his mind? What then? Did Apollo withhold the truth from him for that reason? Indeed I do not know whether you will obey me or not, but Apollo knew most certainly that Laius would not obey, and yet he spoke. Why did he speak? Nay, why is he Apollo, why does he give oracles, why has he set himself in this position, to be a Prophet and a Fountain of truth, so that men from all the world come to him? Why is “Know thyself” written up over his shrine, though no one understands it?
If you act as if something is true, you will shortly find out whether it is or isn’t. Any reduction of effort or increase of abundance you enjoy as a consequence of your new belief is the best measure of its truth.
Indeed, you will see that the whole history of the spirit of religion is only the history of the errors of the human mind, which, placed in a world that it does not comprehend, endeavors nevertheless to solve the enigma; and which, beholding with astonishment this mysterious and visible prodigy, imagines causes, supposes reasons, builds systems; then, finding one defective, destroys it for another not less so; hates the error that it abandons, misconceives the one that it embraces, rejects the truth that it is seeking, composes chimeras of discordant beings; and thus, while always dreaming of wisdom and happiness, wanders blindly in a labyrinth of illusion and doubt.
A false conclusion once arrived at and widely accepted is not easily dislodged, and the less it is understood the more tenaciously it is held.
In Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. . . . Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away.