What are Crony Beliefs?

14 March 2017

According to Kevin Simler's essay called "Crony Beliefs," crony beliefs are beliefs that you have partly because you want to believe them. This article talks at length about how beliefs form and when things go wrong. Why does it seem like so many people end up believing things that end up serving their self-interest? In a political context, I'm sure it would be easy to find boatloads of evidence for this on both sides of the aisle.

However, taking a step back, some philosophers doubt that such a thing as "crony beliefs" could even exist. They argue as follows: if the sole aim of belief is truth—that is, to accurately model reality—then the only considerations that will be able to influence your beliefs are those that provide evidence that reality is a certain way. All sorts of personal reasons you may have to want a belief will not be able to assist you in actually forming that belief. This does not rule out that if, say, you want to be a Republican, then committing to only reading Fox News will not change your beliefs. Rather, your beliefs are only changed because you have been exposed to "evidence" that lent itself to becoming a Republican. But that is a long ways from your political or personal desire by itself influencing any of your beliefs.

I'm actually rather compelled by this reasoning. Try this at home: Think of a belief you really, truly, genuinely want to have, but have thought about and just don't buy. From this desire alone, try to make yourself actually believe it. Don't just remind yourself of the reasons to believe it of course, but see if your desires alone can convince you that the belief is that any more likely to be true. To me, this just doesn't make sense.

What do you think?

Check out the full article: http://www.meltingasphalt.com/crony-beliefs/

Comments (4)

Laura Maguire's picture

Laura Maguire

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 -- 9:45 AM

You mentioned Fox News and it

You mentioned Fox News and it occurred to me that one method they use to get people to believe things that are completely made-up is to repeat them over and over again. Couldn't this technique work "at home" too? There's something I wish were true but I don't currently believe, so I just tell it to myself over and over until I start to believe it. Surely this is the way a lot of self-help techniques work. Think Stuart Smalley's mantra from SNL (before Al Franken became a politician!), "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DIETlxquzY

p.astor's picture


Tuesday, March 14, 2017 -- 10:57 AM

Maybe that is more about

Maybe that is more about having an authoritative or respected voice repeat something over and over to you? Maybe that technique is about social manipulation and conditioning than just the simple act of repeating something to yourself which is why it is harder to do by yourself---many people do swear by positive self affirmations though, so maybe it is that easy.

Laura Maguire's picture

Laura Maguire

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 -- 1:54 PM

I'm not really into self-help

I'm not really into self-help mantras myself, but when I was struggling to finish my PhD dissertation, I started to repeat this to myself: "I can do it. I will do it. I am doing it." It's hard to say what effect, if any, that had. But I did finish it eventually and that was over a decade now!

But I'm curious about the point you raised—whether it's mere repetition or repetition from a respected authority that makes us believe things. Can we be that respected authority for ourselves?

angelonapinhead's picture


Friday, April 7, 2017 -- 6:10 PM

One reason or “piece of

One reason or “piece of evidence” people often use in deciding whether (or to what degree) to believe something is whether it’s believed by “people like me.” Or by “smart friends I talk to regularly” or “people in my political party/faction who I respect and who know more about this stuff than I do.” This speaks to the identity aspect of belief-formation, e.g., the way people conform to the political beliefs and opinions of friends and those in their political party.