Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Policy of Mine

I always answer all questions, as candidly as possible.

There's a sub-policy for questions I can't stop myself from lying about; I refuse to answer them. This is mainly so that I can support the main policy as widely as possible.

Originally I formed this simply because as a philosopher I want to get into people's heads, and it's freaking annoying when they dodge my questions. Since I was a good little boy, I followed the Golden Rule and did unto others.

Now, though, I have a nice post hoc rationalization. I've found that while it's helpful for interpersonal communication, it's vital for a philosopher to be as honest as possible.


How many cults could work if the leader answered every question with absolute honesty? How long would even the Pope last? How long would, indeed, any politician last?

And what do all these so-called 'leaders' have in common? Their leadership depends on deception.

In other words, total honesty is your guarantee that I'm not trying to lead an uprising, because I've completely gimped myself. I simply cannot do it.

You can test this. There is a question you could ask any of your 'authorities' which basically translates into "Are you completely unfit to rule?" If I become a potential authority, and you ask me this question, I'll answer yes.

(Also I should just in general appear different than other people.)

I should disclaim that this policy does not apply to obviously hostile questions. "Have you stopped beating your wife?" will provoke the honest answer of "That's bullshit and you're full of it." This is basically because if I answer without context, it does in fact sway those on the fence - which is exactly why hostile people ask them in the first place.

Less hostile questions that are nonetheless damning I treat with more equanimity - I wait for my interlocutor to ask for context. Since they're curious instead of hostile, it's just a matter of time. Occasionally I need to prod.

So, second, what does this mean?

If I can't lead an uprising, it means I cannot form a coterie. If I'm the same person to every person, I cannot be all things to all people, and it's just impossible to be like Rand. Honesty does not provoke fanatical devotion, which immediately implies that fanatical devotion leads from not-honesty.

I cannot use deception to cover holes in my philosophy. I just have to say things like, "Well, I've proven it, but even I don't believe or use it." For instance it seems pretty clear that humans are hypocrisy machines. Human levels of self-awareness means that we can disrupt arbitrary habits, which leads pretty much directly to death. So, there must be a powerful built-in self-deception machine to preserve necessary instincts.

Yet, I'm not a hypocrite, as far as I'm able to not be. So, other than sheer arrogance, what basis have I for saying that hypocrisy is human nature? I'll say it anyway - but I don't live by it, nor do I intend to. It's what I've proven, (strongly suggested, in this case) not what I believe.

I can use that free will, that self-awareness, to disrupt this habit when I feel it is a good idea.

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