Utilitarian prison cells tower Friman/Wikimedia Commons

边沁的谬误,过去与现在

墨尔本—1809年,功利主义(utilitarianism)创始人边沁开始写作《谬误集》(The Book of Fallacies)。他的目标是揭露用来阻挠改革的谬误论调,比如取消“腐败选区”(即选民太少以致于强大的贵族或地主能轻松当选为国会议员,而曼彻斯特等新兴城市则无法在议会中得到代表。

边沁搜集各种谬误例证,它们常常来自议会辩论。1811年,他总结了50种不同类型的谬误,冠以《攻击我们就是攻击政府》、《没有先例的论点》、《理论漂亮,实践糟糕》的等标题。(一件康德和边沁都同意的事情是最后一个例子是一个谬误:某物如果在实践上很糟糕,那么在理论上必然也有缺陷。)

于是,边沁成为这一近几年来突飞猛进的科学领域的先锋。他一定会喜欢心理学家所证明的事情:我们存在一种确认偏误(confirmation bias,即我们支持并记住符合而非有悖于我们的信念的信息);我们系统性地高估我们的信念的准确性(过度自信效应);我们倾向于对某个具体个体的遭遇产生反应,而对我们仅拥有统计信息的大量人群无动于衷。

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