Mistakes in Thinking
Uploaded by jetzzz on Oct 26, 2011
This paper considers the question of whether or not it’s possible to be mistaken in knowing what we think.
We are considering Moore’s Paradox, the idea that there are some statements that can be consistent and inconsistent at the same time. Within that framework, we want to ask another question: Can we be mistaken in what we think?
This is not a question of being mistaken because of receiving incorrect information; the question under consideration is, is it possible to actually make a mistake about the (for lack of a better term) contents of our own minds?
When we make a first-person assertion, we are in the realms of conscious thought; that is, we are explaining our thoughts and thought processes to someone else, saying, “This is what I think.” However, there is an important difference in processing the difference between p and “I think that p.” In the first case, p is itself; in the second, we imbue p with qualities taken from our own belief system and higher-level consciousness. In this case, if we are mistaken in our interpretation of p, I think it is possible to say that we can make a mistake in what we think. This is akin to making a mistake because of a lack of good information.
But on a deeper level, the question truly is, can we make a mistake about our actual conscious thought processes? Can we say that we are mistaken in our thoughts—not in the content (for what of a better word) of what we’re considering, but in the very process of thinking itself?
I believe that such a thing is not only possible, but happens frequently; we call it “self-deception.” Self-deception is no such much an act of deliberation – a conscious effort to fool oneself – as it is incomplete self-knowledge. If we truly know ourselves and our beliefs, feelings, and consciousness, then we have a great deal of self-knowledge, sufficient to understand our thought processes. But if that knowledge is incomplete than we can “fool ourselves.” When we do so, then we can be mistaken in our thinking. But I think it is important to recognize that our self-delusion is not deliberate, but comes from a lack of knowledge.
The concept of consciousness is still poorly understood and remains the object of debate. In...