Self-deception

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Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.

Quotes[edit]

Corinthians:Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
Jeremiah:The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.
I John:If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
  • The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat one's self.
  • In all of history, we have found just one cure for error—a partial antidote against making and repeating grand, foolish mistakes, a remedy against self-deception. That antidote is criticism.
  • The capacity for self-deception, rarely acknowledged or understood by those who offer us supernatural answers to our problems, is huge: as easy as it is to make a medium’s cold-reading statements ‘fit’ our own situation and come to believe that he must have some paranormal insight, it is hardly any more difficult for a would-be psychic with an average ego, upon hearing frequently positive feedback, to believe over time that he must be blessed with a special gift. It’s harder to think you’re doing it for real when you’re tossing tambourines in the dark or have ready-made ectoplasm stuffed into your mouth or bottom.
    • Derren Brown, Harry Houdini on Deception (foreword) (2009)
  • Self-deception is a defining part of our human nature. By recognizing its various forms in ourselves and reflecting upon them, we may be able to disarm them and even, in some cases, to employ and enjoy them. This self-knowledge opens up a whole new world before us, rich in beauty and subtlety, and frees us not only to take the best out of it, but also to give it back the best of ourselves, and, in so doing, to fulfil our potential as human beings. I don't really think it's a choice.
  • It is never going to be possible for any of us to eliminate self deception completely from our lives and that some forms of self deception can actually prove very productive for us. Many forms of self deception are ways in which we can deal with difficult situations. A good example is having a bad day at work and rather than taking it out on family and friends you might go and play a fast and furious game of tennis.
    • Neel Burton, in “Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception”
  • Most people are not liars. They can't tolerate too much cognitive dissonance. I don't want to deny that there are outright liars, just brazen propagandists. You can find them in journalism and in the academic professions as well. But I don't think that's the norm. The norm is obedience, adoption of uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception.
  • Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.
    • Demosthenes, Third Olynthiac, paragraph 19, Olynthiacs, Phillippics, Minor Public Speeches…, trans. J. H. Vince, p. 53 (1954).
  • Many of my fellow atheists consider all talk of 'spirituality' or 'mysticism' to be synonymous with mental illness, conscious fraud, or self-deception. I have argued elsewhere that this is a problem - because millions of people have had experiences for which 'spiritual' and 'mystical' seem the only terms available.
  • Everyone admits that "the truth hurts" but no one applies this adage to himself -and as soon as it begins to hurt us, we quickly repudiate it and call it a lie. It is this tendency toward self-deception (more than any active sin) that makes human progress slow and almost imperceptible.
  • More fundamentally, I'm interested in memory because it's a filter through which we see our lives, and because it's foggy and obscure, the opportunities for self-deception are there. In the end, as a writer, I'm more interested in what people tell themselves happened rather than what actually happened.
  • If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
  • The self-deceived person may even think he is able to console others who became victims of perfidious deception, but what insanity when someone who himself has lost the eternal wants to heal the person who is extremely sick unto death!
  • Only one deception is possible in the infinite sense, self-deception.
  • People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be, until they have learned to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.
    • Vladimir Lenin, "Three Sources and Three Components of Marxism" (1913), as cited by Lloyd L. Brown in a letter to the editor "What Lenin Really Said", The New York Times (14 April 1990), p. 122
  • You know, I have this version of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. God, in expelling Adam and Eve, kind of felt bad. He had gotten very angry, right? You know, you get angry and then you feel, "Well, maybe I overreacted." So, God was in that kind of mood when he expelled Adam and Eve from the garden. But his hands were tied. He had to go through with it; he had made the decision. God doesn't want to constantly second-guess himself. But he thought, "I know. I'll give them self-deception. Things are going to be truly horrendous out there, but they'll never notice."
  • The nature of self-love and of this human Ego is to love self only and consider self only. But what will man do? He cannot prevent this object that he loves from being full of faults and wants. He wants to be great, and he sees himself small. He wants to be happy, and he sees himself miserable. He wants to be perfect, and he sees himself full of imperfections. He wants to be the object of love and esteem among men, and he sees that his faults merit only their hatred and contempt. This embarrassment in which he finds himself produces in him the most unrighteous and criminal passion that can be imagined; for he conceives a mortal enmity against that truth which reproves him, and which convinces him of his faults. He would annihilate it, but, unable to destroy it in its essence, he destroys it as far as possible in his own knowledge and in that of others; that is to say, he devotes all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself, and he cannot endure either that others should point them out to him, or that they should see them.
  • At the outset the solemn asseverations of monarchs and leading statesmen in each nation that they did not want war must be placed on a par with the declarations of men who pour paraffin about a house knowing they are continually striking matches and yet assert they do not want a conflagration. This form of self-deception, which involved the deception of others, is fundamentally dishonest.
    • Arthur Ponsonby, Falsehood in Wartime: Propaganda Lies of the First World War, Introduction (1928)
  • Lower a bucket into a well of self-deception, and what comes up must be immortal truth, mustn't it?
  • Embarrassment is the greatest teacher, but since its lessons are exactly those we have tried hardest to conceal from ourselves, it may teach us, also, to perfect our self-deception.
  • No satisfaction based upon self-deception is solid, and, however unpleasant the truth may be, it is better to face it once for all, to get used to it, and to proceed to build your life in accordance with it.
  • Human beings have a demonstrated talent for self-deception when their emotions are stirred.
  • It is self-love and its offspring self-deception, which shut the gates of heaven, and lead men, as if in a delicious dream, to hell.
    • Christian Scriver, reported in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, p. 537 (1895)
William Shakespeare in King Lear:...and all that we are evil in,
by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion
of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
disposition to the charge of a star!
Leo Tolstoy:It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.
  • Man is an evasive beast, given to cultivating strange notions about himself. He is humiliated by his simian ancestry, and tries to deny his animal nature, to persuade himself that he is not limited by its weaknesses nor concerned in its fate. And this impulse may be harmless, when it is genuine. But what are we to say when we see the formulas of heroic self-deception made use of by unheroic self-indulgence?
    • Upton Sinclair, The Profits of Religion: An Essay in Economic Interpretation, Introductory, "Bootstrap-lifting" (1918)
  • Unfortunately for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgment, which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.
  • The "passion for incredulity" can produce as much self-deception as the uncritical will to believe.
  • The instinct for self-deception in human beings makes them try to banish from their minds dangers of which at bottom they are perfectly aware by declaring them non-existent.

External links[edit]

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