I’ve just discovered what might just be my new favorite lecture on Youtube. Pseudonymous philosopher Sisyphus Redeemed describes a sample of the many ways we have been wrong throughout history and looks at the implications of our capacity to be certain we are right, when in fact we are wrong. In a whistlestop tour of some fundamental principles in psychology and philosophy, we learn how we are likely to be wrong about: Our beliefs, our emotions, why we believe our beliefs, when we change our minds, why we change our minds, the accuracy of our perceptions, the accuracy of our self-evaluations and how wrong we are. “We’re not just wrong, we’re wrong on every conceivable level of resolution” – admittedly somewhat of an exaggeration, but a thought provoking point which is toned down to more reasonable terms later in the talk. The talk is humorous, entertaining and enlightening and packed full with interesting historical anecdotes.
“Being right is far less important than realizing what we don’t know… how much better would the world be if people in general were more capable, more comfortable with admitting that they sometimes can be a stranger to themselves, that they are not entirely familiar with why they did what they did or said what they said. How many friendships could have been salvaged.. how many marriages could have been saved, how many wars could have been averted, if people were more willing to admit they were wrong?”
For a little further reading, check out Isaac Asimov’s essay on The Relativity of Wrong (Skeptical Inquirer).