Talk at Skepsis conference – What if false beliefs are useful?

Four years ago, I gave a talk at the Skepsis conference in the Netherlands addressing the question: “What if false beliefs make you happy?” My partner-in-crime Massimo Pigliucci gave a talk about epistemic virtues in the same session, and we had an enjoyable discussion on stage afterwards. Apparently the organizers liked our joint session quite a lot, so they invited us to give an update this year. In my new (short) talk, I ask a slightly different question: what if false beliefs are useful to society? Is paternalistic deception (also known as white lies) sometimes justified? As a self-professed ‘truth fundamentalist’, however, I stuck to my guns and argued, once again, that telling the truth is always bette. Even if that truth involves the efficacy of face masks in times of severe shortages (does that ring a bell?). Here’s our joint session on Zoom, with an ensuing discussion about truth, false belief and (ir)rationality. And I predicted Biden’s victory! 😉

Here was our original session in 2016: