Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

The Lure of Irrational Hope

Originally posted on October 12, 2012

A friend asked, “Why are people so inclined towards irrational hope?” I pondered and here are some thoughts. You are welcome to comment.

First, some hope is semi-rational in the sense of it doesn’t hurt to look for the best, and it’s no help to imagine negative consequences—unless you can do something realistic to change things. That’s a fuzzy arena. Sadly, many people are more shallow. They have no hesitation in giving in to certain voices that say things like, “- maybe everything will just get all better
– maybe a new president will sweep out corruption and start afresh
– somebody should know how to fix it, so therefore someone does know, and especially those who say, "as a matter of fact, I DO know! Follow me! Vote for me!
– next time will be better
– I deserve it. therefore Providence will see to it I get it..
– It isn’t fair if God doesn’t come through for me. I tried. I prayed: “I’ll be good if you’ll grant me this little tiny miracle
  – … and so forth. These subtle voices slip in. I call them “deffils” and they are a name for a personfication—treating something as if it were a person—to that which seduces people into folly. A deffil is not as nasty as a devil, but it can still lead you down the path to heck.

Considering depth psychology, people retain this among many “inner child” complexes that exercise an influence, however modified or repressed. Most folks repress these—they are pushed out of consciousness. Furthermore, these and other forms of wishful thinking tend to seem plausible, believable, even rational. That’s what makes them so tricky—little deffils!

Note that rationality for most people is really a matter of what feels coherent, and these lines of thinking are rarely traced down to ensure they follow any logic. Most frequently they are deeply contaminated by a variety of logical fallacies, but the final pathway is that the person feels they have come to this conclusion through reason.

A full discussion of the way irrationality seems perfectly reasonable to many people has been discussed in a spate of recent books. Only if we learn to practice a kind of scientific attitude—which, interestingly, doesn’t have to involve the contents of most science courses—which teach what has been demonstrated by science but rarely the core method—can we resist the blandishments of political and religious and social appeals to our emotions rather than to our reason—even as they claim to be appealing to our reason!!!

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