Let's say Descartes, Socrates, Hume, and Popper were up against a psychopath who tried to abuse their minds with gaslighting techniques to win an argument. They would meet the psychopath one by one and have an argument.

The philosophers would use logic, probabilities, and epistemology to win the debate. The psychopath would however not be admitting defeat and instead be saying the following things to make the philosophers doubt their own mind(pulling focus away from the original subject):

  • “You’re so dramatic”
  • “You’re too sensitive”
  • “You’re too emotional”
  • “You’re imagining things”
  • “You know you sound insane right now, right?”
  • “You’re always making stuff up”
  • “Nothing you’re saying makes sense, do you even hear yourself?”
  • “That never even happened.” “This is what happened…” or “this is what I said…”
  • “Why should I believe you? Everyone knows you’re full of it”
  • “You’re not thinking clearly and therefore you should trust my judgment rather than your own”

The psychopath will never admit defeat and has the gift of being immune to gaslighting himself and will be able to lie consequently without bad consciousness. Since he won't win the debate using science he will use gaslighting to try to destroy the philosopher's sense of reality and hopefully make them doubt their own judgment.

The psychopath is self-assured of his own sense of reality(where he is always right), even if it is wrong.

Any thoughts on how Descartes, Socrates, Hume, and Popper would handle themselves against the psychopath's gaslighting techniques to make them doubt their sense of reality?

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  • Really? Question closed? Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 23:28
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1 Answer 1


It is unlikely Descartes, Socrates, Hume or Popper - having strong perceptual foundations - would be taken in. However, figuring out human psychological 'defence' mechanisms helps if you have availability to information about them, the modern canons of which postdate all but Popper.

Notably, splitting & projection and projective identification (gaslighting).


Projective identification differs from simple projection in that projective identification can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby a person, believing something false about another, influences or coerces that other person to carry out that precise projection.[12] In extreme cases, the recipient may lose any sense of their real self and become reduced to the passive carrier of outside projections, as if possessed by them.[13] This phenomenon has been noted in gaslighting.[14]

"how [would] Descartes, Socrates, Hume, and Popper would handle themselves against the psychopath's gaslighting techniques"?

They should be aware of the nature of human 'defence' (aggression) mechanisms. It is not obscure knowledge, but most people do not have time to make themselves aware of it. Perhaps Descartes, Socrates et al. would defend society by making this knowledge more generally known.

  • Thanks Chris! Projective identification was a new one for me. Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 0:56
  • As I understand, it is an aspect of our evolution in tribes. It was a successful tribal trait if the tribespeople would introject the ideas of the chief. Good for tribal discipline. This also rests on the idea that the basic unit of human evolution was the tribe. Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 9:51
  • Further reading if you're interested: Group Psychology and Political Theory Commented Dec 26, 2020 at 9:56

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