Evasion Does Not Equal Dishonesty!

My friend's wife has been cheating on him for years. But if you asked him about this, he would say she was faithful. And he is not lying, merely deceived, and not just by her, but by himself as well.

His "prior," if we want to speak like Bayesians, is that she is a faithful woman: after all, he married her. For me and the rest of his friends, not having this strong prior, the evidence of her cheating is obvious. But he explains away each instance: "Oh, he is her old high school friend, and they had a lot to talk about." "That fellow: no, she assures me he is gay." And so on.

He is not being deliberately dishonest.  It is just that, given his large emotional investment in believing she is faithful, he winds up evading the evidence that she is not. It is a very human thing to do, and one I myself have done all too frequently!

So when I note that people misconstrue analogies to evade their force, I am not claiming they are being deliberately dishonest! In the specific case cited in that post, I was engaged with people with a strong prior that libertarianism is correct. So, when faced with an analogy that points towards a flaw in libertarian reasoning, they naturally look for a flaw in the analogy, and hit upon the first difference they detect between the cases in the analogy, without carefully analyzing exactly what the analogy is claiming is similar between the analogous cases.

Again, not dishonest, simply human, and no doubt something I too have done! It is nevertheless a "slippery" maneuver: it protects us form having to re-examine our priors.

Oh, and let me apologize: I realize my initial post was not clear enough on this point. I did not mean to defame anyone by accusing them of deliberate dishonesty, but I can see how people could have read my post that way.

9 comments:

  1. Hmmm. Some libertarian whose confirmation bias is all-powerful and all-encompssing. Hmmm, who could that be, who, who? It's on the tip of my tongue ...

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  2. The beginning example reminds me of one of Shakespeare's sonnets:

    "When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her though I know she lies, that she may think me some untutored youth, unlearned in the world's false subtleties. Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young, although she knows my days are past the best, simply I credit her false-speaking tongue. On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed."

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  3. Very gentlemanly of you!

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  4. I swear this blog is the Twilight Zone sometimes.

    Gene, suppose you had written (in this current post) about your hypothetical friend:

    "It is shocking how often my friend uses this slippery trick, whenever I bring up the fact that his wife spends a lot of time on the bus with the basketball team. Because he can't come up with a plausible excuse, instead he resorts to the sleight-of-hand that she has a side business selling condoms. What else *could* he say?"

    In that case, nobody would think you were merely lamenting his own naivete. It would sound like he was actively deceiving you.

    And that's the language you used to describe what I did regarding your analogy.

    So yes, in this current post, it doesn't sound like you're accusing your hypothetical friend of deliberately being dishonest, but that's precisely because you neutered the language that you had used to describe me.

    And yet, once again, this is somehow proof that I can't read or understand arguments.

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    1. What? There was certainly nothing here about you not being able to read! I was apologizing in case someone thought I was accusing others of dishonesty.

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    2. I think it's clear that's what you were doing in this post.

      Next up Gene, kontradictions spelt with a C, for Callahan.

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    3. When I first encountered Gene's blog (via yours, Bob), I first thought he was biased and rude, then I came to think he was fair-minded but ornery, and now I think he is quite wise but just lacks tact (perhaps intentionally).

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    4. Bob: "I did not mean to defame anyone by accusing them of deliberate dishonesty, but I can see how people could have read my post that way. "

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    5. And yet, once again, this is somehow proof that I can't read or understand arguments.

      While Gene picks on you from time to time, I do not think that he thinks you are stupid.

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