What does confidence in our opinions indicate about the likelihood that our opinions are correct?
Think of confidence as a delectable treat, a cookie rewarded when you have worked hard, or stolen from the cookie jar when you haven’t.
If you only reward yourself with the satisfying treat for doing careful investigation and interpretation, then the more confident you are, the more likely that you’re correct. By this “confident-means-true” interpretation, when we say “I really believe that the meeting is on Thursday” the “I really believe” means “It must be true,” as in “I did the necessary work to investigate it and thereby earned my confidence.”
But we can grant ourselves confidence, that delectable treat really any time we want it, subject only to our appetites and limited only by indigestion we might or might not experience when over-indulging in treats we didn’t work to earn.
So the “confident-means-false” interpretation suggests that the more confident you are, the more you have substituted confidence for thoughtfulness, and more closed-minded, bigoted, wrong-headed, stubborn, pigheaded, blind and ignorant you are.
Confidence, which implies both “likely to be right” and “likely to be wrong,” is therefore a “contranym,” a word that means two opposite things, a word like “clip” which means both “fasten” and “detach.”
And how do we use this contranym in a sentence? Quite often as a double standard, sentencing others as closed-minded for their confidence while treating ours as a sign that we know what is true. Or to put it in a limerick:
Why, is your sureness a sign
that you’re certainly right, and yet mine
is a sign I’m closed-minded
biased, and blinded
Shouldn’t the standards align?