Sincere Bullshitters or True Believers

As I was watching the Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris discussion, which, by the way, had some very important examples of methods to use in a discussion; and as I tried to understand what Peterson was after, the idea came to my head that a person could very well be sincere but deluded. To put it in another way, a person can be the victim of a myth or illusion.

When I first started thinking about bullshitters I took as my models sales people, politicians, and lawyers. From one perspective, they are all con men, trying to win by whatever strategy will work. They are all insincere in what they are doing. And so, I was not thinking of people who are sincere in what they are selling or advocating, but who, however, are mistaken — who are advocating something erroneous.

My model for the sincere bullshitter, or true believer, is the religious guru — the priest, the minister, the rabbi, the mullah. I say this because they are making incompatible religious claims, and I know that incompatible religious claims cannot be true together, and therefore, most of them — if not all of them — have to be wrong. By the same line of reasoning, most philosophies are erroneous as well — inasmuch as they are incompatible with each other. As to theologies, inasmuch as they are trying to systematize a set of dogmas or axioms, they are innocuous, but trivial, having the same status as an attempt to systematize Greek, Babylonian, or Scandinavian mythologies.

I believe that most religious apologists and most philosophers are sincere in their endeavors. But as it is said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The problem with sincere bullshitters, or true believers, is not in the fact that they are trying to propagate what they think is true or correct, but the fact that what they are, in fact, propagating is bullshit — error.

An interesting question to ask is: What are the psychological factors which lead one to erroneous beliefs? I have in mind — among other factors — cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias.


P.S. Here is the Peterson-Harris discussion. The admirable methodological point is that each of them — call them A and B — was to restate what the other claimed.¬† Thus, A was asked to state what A thought was B’s position, and what B objected to A’s position. And vice versa.¬†They did not debate; instead they tried to understand what each was claiming.


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