Cognitive Dissonance

potter__s_chaos_legion_by_dinosaurusgede-d2xlq9vI’m currently reading a fan-fiction called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (awesome by the way), and I found this gem 41% in.  It’s a conversation between Harry and Dumbledore about death. Dumbledore is saying that he is OK with dying, and Harry is arguing that it is crazy to say that you are OK with it.

See there is a little thing called cognitive dissonance, or in plainer English, sour grapes.  If people were hit on the heads with truncheons once a month, and no one could do anything about it, pretty soon there’d be all sorts of philosophers, pretending to be wise, who found all sorts of amazing benefits to being hit on the head with a truncheon once a month.  Like, it makes you tougher, or it makes you happier on the days when you’re not getting hit with a truncheon.  But if you went up to someone who wasn’t getting hit, and you asked them if they wanted to start, in exchange for those amazing benefits, they’d say no.  And if you didn’t have to die, if you came from somewhere that no one had ever heard of death, and I suggested to you that it would be an amazing wonderful great idea for people to get wrinkles and old and eventually cease to exist, why, you’d have me hauled right off to a lunatic asylum!  So why would anyone possibly think any thought so silly as that death is a good thing?  Because you’re afraid of it, because you don’t really want to die, and that thought hurts so much inside you that you have to rationalize it away, do something to numb the pain, so you won’t have to think about it -“

This is a very poignant explanation for cognitive dissonance in my view.  Can you try to apply the truncheon logic to more situations in your life?  I can think of a few.  I might explore them some more.

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