3 Ideas in 2 Minutes on Staying Sceptical
Loki’s Wager, the Utility of Skepticism & the Liar’s Dividend
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I. Loki’s Wager
Loki (the god from the original Norse mythology, not the former Thanos collaborator) was the name giver for this verbal fallacy called Loki’s Wager. His reputation was that of a cunning trickster who loved to play pranks on friends and foes. Here’s one you haven’t seen in a Marvel movie:
In a bet with the dwarf Brokkr, which he lost, Loki wagered his head, which he kept nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, the god was happy to oblige and have his head severed from the rest of his body. But he insisted that, in doing so, Brokkr must not take parts of his neck. But where exactly do the neck end and the head begin? With this linguistic trick, Loki kept his head as the matter was discussed indefinitely.
For us mortals, the implications of Loki’s Wager are threefold:
It’s easy to agree to a deal. But when it comes to implementing it, the devil is in the detail.
Beware of linguistic stalling tactics used to postpone a decision or action. Meaning, don’t get lost in semantics.
Pay attention to people who claim something cannot be defined. It could be a ploy to shield an idea from criticism.
Anyhow, Loki moves in mysterious ways, which is why we cannot be sure the Norse god doesn’t actually live on as Tom Hiddleston.
II. The Utility of Scepticism
It pays to develop a healthy scepticism. Astronomer Carl Sagan even saw it as a civil necessity:
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It’s a way of thinking. A way of skepticely interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallability. If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then we’re up for grabs for the next charlatan — political or religious — who comes ambling along.
III. The Liar’s Dividend
The concept of the Liar’s Dividend suggests: In an environment where the line between truth and falsehood is blurred, it’s the liar who benefits the most. Here’s journalist Kelly McBride explaining the idea further:
Debunking fake or manipulated material like videos, audios or documents, ultimately could stoke belief in the fakery. As a result, even after the fake is exposed, it will be harder for the public to trust any information on that particular topic.
Unfortunately, it looks like teaching people to be sceptical of false information can have unintended negative consequences. They may just get better at questioning reality as a whole. 🐘
Have a great week,