January 22, 2012
BOOK OF THE WEEK: WEEK FOUR, 2011
Robert Trivers, The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception u Human Life (New York: Basic Books, 2011) (From the bookjacket: "At the core of our mental lives is a contradiction. Although our senses have evolved to give us an exquisitely detailed perception of the outside world, as soon as that information hits our brains, it often becomes biased and distorted, usually without conscious effort. Why should this be so? Wouldn't natural selection act to prevent bias and distortion? Wouldn't self-deception--the failure of an individual to see the world as it is--provide a roadmap to personal failure?" "Put differently, why does self-deception succeed?" "In The Folly of Fools, leading evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers argues that in order to deceive others, we often deceive ourselves first. To lie to others, we hide our intent to deceive and the details of our deception; we selectively recall information and bias our arguments. But deception is more than just a verbal game. Trivers marshals evidence--spanning everything from immunology to neuroscience to group dynamics to the relationships of parents and children--of an arms race between deceiver and deceived at every level of biological complexity. The urge to deceive ourselves and others is not without risk, however, and as Trivers convincingly shows, this urge has had, and continues to have, negative effects, undermining everything from academic endeavors and air safety to economic markets and international relations." "The culmination of four decades of research, The Folly of Fools is a testament to the power of evolutionary analysis to unravel the riddles of human life." I am coming more and more to appreciate the extent to which lawyers, including academic lawyers (that is, law professors, law deans, and law deanlets), are constantly engaged in acts of deception and gross acts of self-deception. Lawyers lie to others and to themselves constantly. They pontificate on their rules of professional responsibility, their rules of ethics, their honor codes, etc., trying to deceive themselves and others into believing them worthy of trust. It is never ending melodrama. And the worse may be those who claim to be good judges of character; it is, perhaps, their worst self-deception. All lawyers engage in the folly of fools. I myself am guilty as charged.).