Self-delusion is a natural aspect of sentience—it’s what inescapably stems from not already knowing everything all at once, and having to do things the hard way, i.e., in that all human beings without exception on the planet create meaning.
We do this by picking a spot in reality and putting a peg, calling it the Limit of Applicability. Anything beyond this limit, the rules do not apply—whatever it is you’re dealing with, if you take it beyond this point the rules you’re using no longer matter. We also set the Threshold of Significance, another peg. Anything below this threshold does not impact the rules for all that is above it, because its relationship with things above that threshold, for the purpose in question, is too weak to make a significant difference. The landscape in between those two limits is where the rubber hits the road in terms of our ability to gain understanding about the particular phenomenon in question.
The thing you have to always remember, however, is that the limit of applicability and the threshold of significance are borders you have set for a specific purpose. They are not arbitrary, exactly. You will always be dealing with context, for one thing. Facts, for instance, make good borders, but they are always interpreted within a particular context, never are they self-evident. There are other sorts of “givens” that may be used as borders, too, but in any case these borders consist of your premises for considering a particular realm of thinking, and the precepts and other logic that will stem from these premises. As such, they cannot be written in stone, because it is always possible that within the data set that these two borders enclose, you have included things that do not belong, or you have excluded things that DO belong—and THEREIN lies the possibility for self-delusion. The answer to this is to keep checking the limit and the threshold to see if they are still making sense based on what you’ve learned so far, and be ready to move them (as it were) to adjust for new understanding.
The answer is NOT to declare everything outside those borders as “anomaly,” and write them completely out of the equation—because they will always still be there, and may eventually become applicable or significant.
Reality is always ongoing. Not only that, it is an ongoing process, which means that change is also always happening. Human beings cannot know all of reality all at once; instead, we take “samples” here and there and work with bits and pieces that we have defined temporarily in order to examine what it might entail. We MODEL reality, in other words. But if you forget that your model IS a model, and mistake it for actual reality, then immediately what you have done is reduced yourself to an existence that will only ever be increasingly under pressure to explain more and more, and which will, because it is static, be less and less able to do so. You cannot innovate in your thinking, thus you don’t learn, and you fail to grow in your knowledge, understanding and especially wisdom.
That, by and large, defines fundamentalism, and it can occur in any realm of endeavor, be it religion, atheism, secularism, spiritualism, communism, socialism, politics in general, economics, even in science can fundamentalism rear its ugly head, in which case science becomes scientism.
…God himself for many people represents a particular limit of applicability. Anything beyond God represents all that we don’t yet understand, and is more an attitude of humility than a belief in the supernatural. It is true that there are also many for whom God is a means by which people may be tyrannized, since that particular definition of God IS written in stone (what Jcm Manuel has often referred to as “a small god,” meaning one that is too limited to be helpful except for tyranny), which if you recall above, you should not do and I also mentioned why. But for the folks who use God to help them remember that they don’t know everything, and that they should keep seeking to know—these people do not deserve scorn. Neither do the fundamentalists deserve it, although definitely such people are better dealt with from a safe distance, if you can manage it.
The reason for THIS is because everyone is at a different spot on the learning curve, and we are all of us moving targets. Therefore it makes sense to practice a dynamic patience based on the insight that not all expectation can come to fruition at the same pace.
And this dynamic patience should be done not only for other people, but for yourself as well. Who are you? What are you overlooking?
Within certain gross parameters, the borders of which are moving targets as our knowledge and understanding grows, the landscape of possibility for human endeavor is virtually infinite. Therefore, there are likely a similar number of ways to use the Limit of Applicability and the Threshold of Significance. Indeed, quite often the two are interchangeable, or even the same thing, depending on what you’re trying to do. In addition to their usefulness in and of itself, in particular in dealing with the problem of self-delusion, it is very important to remember that reality is always more vast that we can account for at any given moment, and so it makes a great deal of sense to make an ongoing commitment to transforming self-delusion into self-knowledge—without unwarranted judgment which hubristically demands that reality trim itself to fit our model of it.