The “point” of a mechanistic theory of self-deception
- It’s very under-discussed. Most investigations of self-deception I’ve encountered either focus on studying its “ecological niche” (the “why”), or focus on demonstrating that self-deception is indeed happening in a specific situation (the second half of The Elephant in the Brain is just this).
- This is a problem for anyone who was hoping to learn something personally useful. If you haven’t gotten the mind-worm that self-deception is totally awesome and you should be doing it all the time, you might reasonably wonder how you might be able to tell if you’re “lying to yourself” about important things that will result in you fucking yourself over. The prevailing attitude I encounter towards this question is “lol, you can’t” or a slightly less aggravating “lol, that’s not my department.”
- Let’s say you care about the fact that you’re in varying degrees of conflict with parties that you think are deceiving themselves. When you only have the theory of “why” and tools for asserting it’s happening, the best you can do is make a rhetorically convincing case to third-parties that the second party is self-deceiving, leading to the third-parties joining you in coordinating against them.
- That’s not nothing, to be clear. It’s just that the above is a conflict resolution hammer that I’d only want to pull out in situations where I’ve got no better choice.
- If you want to usefully contribute to someone actually amending their ways, you need to understand the phenomena on a more gearsy/mechanistic level.