Humans are endowed with a cognitive faculty unique among all animals — we have the ability to not only lie to others but we can also lie to ourselves. Self-delusion surely imposes a heavy cognitive burden but there must be some reason that the capacity evolved. It must have some survival value. Perhaps it is better to believe in an illusion rather than admit a truth that is too unpleasant.
That could be the reason that criminal politicians are often held up by their followers as epitomes of virtue and goodness. Mark Twain claimed that once a man is reputed to be an early riser, he can safely sleep till noon. It appears to be general knowledge (or even common knowledge) that politicians are crooks but people are able to believe that their favorite politicians are saints. I love a neat little story I read in a delightful little book, Adam Smith Goes to Moscow, by Walter Adams and James Brock. Continue reading “Delusions”