I’ve been noticing a topic I’ve dealt with repeatedly in other contexts but would like to address head on: the possibility of deliberately lying to oneself, of intentionally believing things that aren’t true. I spoke before of “noble lies” to others, but not to oneself.
The point seems to come up again and again, for there are many reasons why trying to believe false things might prove valuable. In cases where one’s children make one less happy, one is still a better parent if one falsely believes that children make one happy. Some psychologists suggest the possibility of depressive realism: the idea that depressed people actually view the world more accurately than others. In a comment I noted the happiness often radiated by evangelical Christians: should one perhaps try to become such a person even if their God doesn’t exist? Last time the point came up in speaking of prayer: there seem to be real benefits from prayer, but it might require belief in an entity that isn’t real.
Now in every one of these cases, the good thing about lying to oneself has something in common: it is a good result. Continue reading