Re: virus: Have a Coke and a Smile!
Fri, 5 Mar 1999 18:47:07 EST

In a message dated 3/5/99 3:49:42 PM Central Standard Time, writes:

<< Men who believe they are more desirable than they really are, or that a women is more interested in him than she really is, are more successful at scoring than realists.>>

Part of this is that you don't really know how desireable you are. These are very subjective considerations. This is part of living in a universe of possibility and uncertainty. You can assert alternative possibilities. In the light of an uncertainty it doesn't hurt to plan for the best possible outcome. In fact it may be unreasonable not to do so. However, even in doing so, there is still plenty of good for rational thought. We have to be able to recognize the difference between a long shot, and an actual impossibility. If we abandon reason in these matters we can be guarranteeing a failure.

>>Someone whose loyalties transcend reason wins loyal friends. Someone to whom
ideas are more important than people rarely does.<<

I am not sure what you mean by loyalties transcending reason. What about a battered woman who stands by her man? I would certainly say her loyalty transcends reason. I don't see that she gets anything out of the situation. As far as valuing ideas more than people, people are the source of value in the first place, for ideas and otherwise.

>>Salesmen listen to motivational tapes to improve their performance.

Someone who believes in himself gives off vibes that attract people.<<

Once again, I would say that these are very subjective matters, and there are an abundance of alternative possibilities that can be reasonably asserted.

>><< Can you have a self-fulfilling prophecy
without faith? I would view this as goal setting.>>

Yes, you can have goal setting, of course. But the theory is that if you believe you are capable of achieving your goals, you have a better shot at it than if you don't. I'll quote some of what I wrote on the subject in<<

I would say this is where understanding and recognizing the limits of your knowlege is very important and beneficial. Recognizing that you don't know whether you can achieve something can be valuable. Ignoring actual knowlege in these situations is still damaging however. Asserting a possibility and acting on it (believing it), is not the same thing as faith IMO. If you hold this possibility exempt from rational criticism, then perhaps it is.

The psyching-out part that you describe is creating a false sense of knowlege/certainty (either in yourself or another person) where there really is a lack of it. Discouraging people from asserting alternative possibilities, perhaps by concealing them.

>>Sinking all of a person's extra money in next week's lottery based on their
faith in fortune cookie numbers might be a self-fulfilling prophecy for SOMEONE, but does that mean that it is good that they do so? Does the outcome justify the decision?>>

I don't see how that could be a self-fulfilling prophecy since the outcome or a lottery would not be influenced by the gambler's belief -- in fact, gambling games have evolved to take advantage of the USEFUL optimism we have evolved to have around low-probability results (see Virus of the Mind for more details).<<

Of course it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the gambler doesn't believe that he or she could win, she wouldn't play. If she doesn't play, she doesn't win. If the gambler believes that she can win, then she may play. If she plays, she may win. The actual outcome of the lottery, as in which numbers are picked, does not change with her beliefs, but HER outcomes can.

>>No one is claiming that irrational faith is good or useful in all or even
most cases. What you may look back on this discussion as having changed your mind about, though, is the idea that reason is not good or useful in all cases. Does using it bring about good? Usually, yes. Always, no.<<

I certainly appreciate your conception of faith under these conditions. In case you think I am just reflexively rejecting them, I HAVE thought about them before. I don't necessarily think there is something unreasonable going, and I think confounding these things with notions of "faith" only serves to ignore some of the very reasonable thought processes that can and do go into goal setting and achieving behaviors. For some reason (memetic I preseume) people have come to associate reason with depressing fatalistic attitudes. I don't. And I think it is really sad that many people have these unfortunate misconceptions.

I would say however, that we can extend ideas of faith into these matters, by saying that faith is asserting a possibility and holding it in principle exempt from rational criticism. Here, asserting a possibility is a type of representation.