The cynic’s conundrum

The cynic’s conundrum is that while a cynic might prefer that others believe an idealistic theory of his cynical mood, his own cynical beliefs should lead him to believe a cynical theory of his own cynical mood. That is, a cynic should believe that complainers tends to be losers, rather than altruists.

Furthermore, the meta-cynical theory, that cynics tend to be losers, seems to better explain the patterns that people don’t like to be around cynics, and don’t want to their children trained in cynicism. If idealism indicates more attractive features, people and institutions would try to present themselves as idealistically as possible.

Of course both the idealistic and the cynical theory of cynicism seem to accept the claim that cynical beliefs tend to contain a lot of truth. And this fact in turn favors the cynical theory of cynicism. Thus while hypocrisy and low motives probably are in fact much more widespread than most people acknowledge, most people are well-advised to pretend that they believe otherwise.

That of course is Robin Hanson, here is the whole (short) essay.

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