Daily Archives: June 21, 2018

The Basics of the “G.I. Joe Fallacy”

Chimp Brain in a jar.jpg

I previously linked to a graph of all known cognitive biases and I have recently encountered a short BBC video that nicely captures four of them.

What I found of particular interest was the G.I. Joe fallacy which refers roughly to the idea that knowing is half the battle. But in fact, knowing about, for instance, our cognitive biases doesn’t help much in overcoming those biases. Thus some scholars chose the idea that knowing is half the battle as an idea that must be retired.

As a philosopher, I would say that the G.I. Joe fallacy shows, among other things, that Socrates and Plato were mistaken in believing that knowledge is sufficient for virtue. As Aristotle knew there is a large gap between knowing the right thing and doing it. In a sense this is depressing. Even if we know that our brains bias us in multiple ways that seem to help little in overcoming those biases. The gap between knowing the good, true, and beautiful and doing the good, seeking the truth, and creating beauty is huge. Still, it seems to be better to know than not. Knowing may not be half the battle but perhaps it is a tenth of the battle. And even that little bit is worth something. In the meantime, we should proceed full speed ahead with rewiring our brains.