In chapter 2 we looked at the concept of “true or false.” We saw that some things are true and some things are false. It follows that it is possible for each of us to believe something to be true which is actually false, or to believe something to be false which is actually true. It is common to say that a person who has such wrong beliefs is “deceived” regarding those beliefs. Based on this, I propose a simple definition for the word “deceived”:
Deceived: A state of believing something to be true which is actually false, or believing something to be false which is actually true.
It should be clear that all of us have been deceived, at times, about some things. Perhaps we preferred to say we were “mistaken,” but it probably fits the above definition of being “deceived.” For most of us, the older we get, the more things we are aware of that we have been deceived about. Those who think they have never been deceived about anything are perhaps the most deceived of all!
We should note that being deceived is different than being neutral or ignorant about something. If I don’t have a settled opinion or belief about something I cannot be deceived about it. I am either just neutral regarding it, or perhaps I am just ignorant about it (or some of both). I can only be deceived about things I claim to know truth about. If I don’t claim to know the truth about something (either openly or secretly), then I cannot be deceived about it. I think the same is true of you.
Now it seems obvious that being deceived about something is generally NOT good. With few exceptions (I can’t think of any) it is generally BAD to be deceived about anything. Being deceived generally leads to doing things that are harmful rather than helpful. So, I hope you already make it your goal to NOT be deceived. Assuming that is the case, it raises an important issue:
How can we avoid being deceived?
I propose the following simple ways of avoiding deception:
First: Simply be aware of the possibility of being deceived. This should help us to be slower to come to conclusions about a matter. We will be less likely to be deceived if we are conscious of the possibility.
Second: Embrace a neutral attitude toward things which you don’t have enough knowledge about to be sure about. I believe strongly that it is better to have a neutral attitude about something than to be deceived regarding it. There is often no need to form conclusions about things quickly. Embrace a neutral attitude until you have enough information to form a valid belief.
Third: Acknowledge your own ignorance, when appropriate. Someone has said “ignorance is bliss.” I generally disagree. However, it is often better to acknowledge our ignorance about something than to pretend to have all the right answers and end up being wrong. Be willing to acknowledge your own ignorance about something rather than risk being deceived about it.
Fourth: Be a seeker of truth. Actively pursue truth and build your life around things you know to be true. Avoid relying on things that may not be true.
For Further Reflection:
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