Don’t Believe Everything You See

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations , Lifehacker’s weekly dip in the pool of stoic wisdom and a guide to using its waters to meditate and improve your life.

This week’s choice belongs to Diogenes Laertius , biographer of the great Greek philosophers. He refers to a quote from Heraclitus that we cannot always trust our own feelings:

“Heraclitus called self-deception a terrible disease, and vision – deception.”

Lives of Prominent Philosophers , 9.7

What does it mean

We all suffer from the brain’s ability to make us believe a lie. Our own vision, the feeling that guides us as we move around the world and allows us to gather information, cannot even be trusted. Relying only on your feelings is a costly mistake.

What to take from there

Now more than ever, vision should not be the only requirement for faith. In a world of fake news, retouched images, digital special effects, and influencers pulling hidden strings, we must let our minds dominate our thoughts and beliefs, not our feelings. After all, seeing water in the distance doesn’t mean it’s not a mirage, hearing voices in an attic doesn’t mean ghosts are in there, and watching a performer levitate a playing card doesn’t mean magic is real.

This is not to say that you should never trust your feelings – they are well suited to helping you avoid danger – it just means that we should not jump to conclusions based on what we see or hear. Give yourself time to process new information, remember the mental biases that change your perception on a daily basis, do your own research, and create beliefs that fit within the limitations of known reality. Self-deception, says Laertius, is the enemy of knowledge.


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