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Our great philosophers tell us not to deceive ourselves. Some quotations from my post named — Top 40 Modern Philosophers Squared Off In Quotations — will illustrate how some top minds thought about self-deception.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951) — Wiki – Pic Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself. My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) — Wiki – Pic What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know. – There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

David Kellogg Lewis (1941 – 2001) — Wiki Pic You claim to be able to break the very laws of nature. And with so little effort! A marvelous power indeed! Can you also bend spoons? 

Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) — Wiki – Pic Philosophers, as things now stand, are all too fond of offering criticism from on high instead of studying and understanding things from within.

William James (1842 – 1910) — Wiki – Pic The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980) — Wiki – Pic Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.

John Dewey (1859 – 1952) — Wiki – Pic We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.

Franz Brentano (1838 – 1917) — Wiki Pic A person judges truly, if and only if, his judgment agrees with the judgment he would make if he were to judge with evidence.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) — Wiki – Pic There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

I hadn’t thought about this usage of those quotations when I created that page, but they are relevant to how easy it is to deceive ourselves, although they are weak on what to do about it, at least in those quotations I used for a one-line description of their whole philosophical thought.

What is it that we are pretending to be, that is injuring our relationship with our world? What are we choosing to believe that Wittgenstein condemns as being “a piece of disguised nonsense” that he wants to convince us is “something that is patent nonsense”? Perhaps high on his list would be that our lives are important and meaningful, and that everything will turn out all right in the end. But, Sartre asserts,  “Life has no meaning a priori… It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.” With that piece of advice he converts almost every human being’s life into absurdity, because most people don’t have the intelligence, time, or energy to create their own identity, and just choose to accept what reality their authorities lay upon them. They could choose to do as James suggests and “alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind,” but few get off the TV couch to do that. That is what Dewey claims we need to do, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” That is, we need to have some real life experiences and then think about them, for our personal life to grow in maturity.

In the end every person must do as de Beauvoir says:

There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

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