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Caravelle comments on You Can Face Reality - Less Wrong

54 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 09 August 2007 01:46AM

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Comment author: Caravelle 24 July 2011 04:30:37PM *  5 points [-]

I can see the objection there however, partly because I sort of have this issue. I've never been attacked, or mugged, or generally made to feel genuinely unsafe - those few incidents that have unsettled me have affected me far less than the social pressure I've felt to feel unsafe - people telling me "are you sure you want to walk home alone ?", or "don't forget to lock the door at all times !".

I fight against that social pressure. I don't WANT the limitations and stress that come with being afraid, and the lower opinion it implies I should have of the world around me. I value my lack of fear quite highly, overall.

That said, is it really to my advantage to have a false sense of security ? Obviously not. I don't want to be assaulted or hurt or robbed. If the world really is a dangerous place there is no virtue in pretending it isn't.

What I should to is work to separate my knowledge from my actions. If I really want to go home alone, I can do this without fooling myself about how risk-free it is; I can choose instead to value the additional freedom I get from going over the additional safety I'd get from not going. And if I find I don't value my freedom that highly after all, then I should change my behaviour with no regrets. And if I'm afraid that thinking my neighbourhood is unsafe will lead me to be a meaner person overall, well, I don't have to let it. If being a kind person is worth doing at all, it's worth doing in a dangerous world.

(this has the additional advantage that if I do this correctly, actually getting mugged might not change my behaviour as radically as it would if I were doing all that stuff out of a false sense of security)

Of course the truth is that it isn't that simple: our brain being what it is, we cannot completely control the way we are shaped by our beliefs. As earlier commenters have pointed out, while admitting you're gay won't affect the fact that you are gay, and it doesn't imply you should worsen your situation by telling your homophobic friends that you're gay, our brains happen to be not that good at living a sustained lie, so in practice it probably will force you to change your behaviour.

Still, I don't think this makes the litany useless. I think that it is possible when we analyse our beliefs, to not only figure out how true they are but also to figure out the extent to which changing them would really force us to change our behaviour. It probably won't lead to a situation where we choose to adopt a false belief - the concept strikes me as rather contradictory - but at the end of the exercise we'd know better which behaviours we really value, and we might figure ways to hold on to them even as our beliefs change.