Quotations about   self-deception

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Many of our disappointments and much of our unhappiness arise from our forming false notions of things and persons. We strangely impose upon ourselves; we create a fairyland of happiness. Fancy is fruitful and promises fair, but, like the dog in the fable, we catch at a shadow, and when we find the disappointment, we are vexed, not with ourselves, who are really the imposters, but with the poor, innocent thing or person of whom we have formed such strange ideas.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818) American correspondent, First Lady (1797-1801)
Letter to Hannah Lincoln (5 Oct 1761)
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Added on 1-Feb-22 | Last updated 1-Feb-22
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Illusion is the dust the devil throws in the eyes of the foolish.

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Minna Antrim (1861-1950) American epigrammatist, writer
Naked Truth and Veiled Allusions (1901)
 
Added on 27-Aug-21 | Last updated 27-Aug-21
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The instinct for self-deception in human beings makes them try to banish from their minds dangers of which at bottom they are perfectly aware by declaring them non-existent.

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer
Beware of Pity (1939)
 
Added on 19-Aug-21 | Last updated 19-Aug-21
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Illusion is the first of all pleasures.

[L’illusion est le premier plaisir.]

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
The Maid of Orleans [La Pucelle d’Orléans] (1756 ed.)
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Sometimes misattributed to Oscar Wilde. This is part of a canto added from another Voltaire piece, probably by a publisher, to the end of the 1756 edition of Voltaire's poem, as noted in the "Additional Notes" included with 19th Century editions of the work. It reads in part:

O gift from heaven! tender love! sweet desire!
We are still happy with your image:
Illusion is the first of all pleasures.

[O don du ciel! tendre amour! doux désir!
On est encore heureux par votre image;
L'illusion est le premier plaisir.]

The canto was not included the Voltaire-authorized 1762 edition. The English translation of the quoted line goes back at least to 1881.

More information: Illusion.
 
Added on 2-Jun-21 | Last updated 2-Jun-21
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it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakably certain of being in the right.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“Notes on Nationalism” (May 1945)
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Added on 23-Feb-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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The problem with evidence is it doesn’t always support your opinion.

Stephen Colbert (b. 1964) American political satirist, writer, comedian
Interview with Ron Suskind (13 Jul 2006)
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Added on 10-Feb-21 | Last updated 10-Feb-21
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MORELLA: There is always choice. We say that there is no choice only to comfort ourselves with a decision we have already made.

J. Michael (Joe) Straczynski (b. 1954) American screenwriter, producer, author [a/k/a "JMS"]
Babylon 5, 3×09 “Point of No Return” (26 Feb 1996)
 
Added on 23-Jul-20 | Last updated 23-Jul-20
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What stuck in the minds of these men who had become murderers was simply the notion of being involved in something historic, grandiose, unique (“a great task that occurs once in two thousand years”), which must therefore be difficult to bear. This was important, because the murderers were not sadists or killers by nature; on the contrary, a systematic effort was made to weed out all those who derived physical pleasure from what they did. […] Hence the problem was how to overcome not so much their conscience as the animal pity by which all normal men are affected in the presence of physical suffering. The trick used by Himmler — who apparently was rather strongly afflicted by these instinctive reactions himself — was very simple and probably very effective; it consisted in turning these instincts around, as it were, in directing them toward the self. So that instead of saying: What horrible things I did to people!, the murderers would be able to say: What horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties, how heavily the task weighed upon my shoulders!

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, ch. 6 (1963)
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Added on 7-Jul-20 | Last updated 7-Jul-20
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Politics demands a great capacity for self-deception, which rescues the politician from hypocrisy. He can normally manage to believe what he is saying for the time it takes him to say it. This gives him a certain sincerity even when he is saying opposite things to opposite people.

Garry Wills (b. 1934) American author, journalist, historian
Confessions of a Conservative, ch. 15 (1979)
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Added on 1-Jun-20 | Last updated 1-Jun-20
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What are you pretending not to know?

Sig Lines
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Added on 15-May-20 | Last updated 15-May-20
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It was not the absence of intelligence which led us into trouble but our unwillingness to draw unpleasant conclusions from it.

H. A. de Weerd (1902-1979) American military historian, author [Harvey Arthur de Weerd]
“Strategic Surprise in the Korean War,” Orbis (1962)


On the US decision in 1950 to call China's bluff by advancing above the 38th parallel.
 
Added on 24-Feb-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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We lie to ourselves, in order that we may still have the excuse of ignorance, the alibi of stupidity and incomprehension, possessing which we can continue with a good conscience to commit and tolerate the most monstrous crimes.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
“Words and Behavior,” The Olive Tree and Other Essays (1936)
 
Added on 28-Oct-15 | Last updated 28-Oct-15
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One lies more to one’s self than to anyone else.

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Journal (6 Dec 1813)
 
Added on 9-Sep-15 | Last updated 9-Sep-15
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To be idle and to be poor have always been reproaches, and therefore every man endeavours with his utmost care to hide his poverty from others, and his idleness from himself.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Idler, #17 (5 Aug 1758)
 
Added on 20-Jun-14 | Last updated 20-Jun-14
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We begin by fooling others and end up fooling ourselves.

Eric Alterman (b. 1960) American historian, journalist, author
Sound and Fury: The Washington Punditocracy and the Collapse of American Politics, Introduction (1992)
 
Added on 7-Jan-14 | Last updated 7-Jan-14
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Who has deceiv’d thee so oft as thy self?

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (Jan 1738)
 
Added on 3-Dec-13 | Last updated 3-Dec-13
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Alcohol is nicissary f’r a man so that now an’ thin he can have a good opinion iv himsilf, ondisturbed be th’ facts.

[Alcohol is necessary for a man so that now and then he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed by the facts.]

Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936) American humorist and journalist
“Mr. Dooley on Alcohol,” Chicago Tribune (26 Apr 1914)
 
Added on 10-May-13 | Last updated 19-Feb-16
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Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, ch. 15, epigraph (1894)
 
Added on 22-Mar-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 260 (1955)
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Added on 26-Sep-12 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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When we believe ourselves in possession of the only truth, we are likely to be indifferent to common everyday truths. Self-deception, credulity, and charlatanism are somehow linked together.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State Of Mind, Aphorism 83 (1955)
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Added on 26-Dec-11 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 70 (1955)
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Added on 12-Dec-11 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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We are all exceptional cases. We all want to appeal against something! Each of us insists on being innocent at all cost, even if has to accuse the whole human race and heaven itself!

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
The Fall (1956) [tr. J. O’Brien]
 
Added on 23-Jan-09 | Last updated 12-Jan-16
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The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) American scientist and writer
“In the Valley of the Shadow,” Parade (10 Mar 1996)
 
Added on 9-Jun-08 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 59, epigram (1897)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-May-22
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