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Home > Secteur-English > General > Self-Deception as the Handmaiden of Evil. By Laurence Mordekhai

Self-Deception as the Handmaiden of Evil. By Laurence Mordekhai

There is no human capacity that contributes more to evil in this world than the capacity for self-deception, which is the wherewithal to hold as true that which one knows as some very significant level simply cannot be true. And there is no group of human beings, however one might define a group, that has not engaged in horrendous instances of self-deception. From Hitler’s characterization of Jews as evil to black men in South Africa engaging in what is known as corrective rape : the raping of lesbian women in order to render them heterosexual. And the most brilliant of people can be self-deceived. Kant was self-deceived about blacks whom he held to be obviously inferior intellectually, although there were whites all around him whom he surely did not regard as having much intellectual horsepower. If the KKK in the United States stands as a classic instance of self-deception in the United States, then so does “Don’t Snitch” ideology that is commonplace in many black communities in the United States. In effect, the attitude of “Don’t Snitch” entails that the vicious attack of a black person by black people is justified if that black person reports to the police a wrong done to her or him by another black. From an evolutionary perspective, it is a most poignant truth that no other biological creature can engage in self-deception. Or, in any event, none can engage in self-deception to anywhere near the extent that human beings can. The best explanation for why human beings have the capacity for self-deception is that it had enormous survival value at one point in human history, in that self-deception marvelously facilitated fitting-in. My thinking about self-deception owes much the marvelous work of Robert L. Trivers entitled The Folly of Fools : The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life.

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