Some beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. These involve causal sequences of the form
(1) X believes that ‘X is p.’
(2) X therefore does b.
(3) Because of (2), X becomes p.
SFPs can be desirable or undesirable to the believer, depending on how they affect them. For example, “I am confident” might be desirable, whereas “I have social anxiety” might be undesirable.
A prophetic hazard is created when someone proposes an idea that can become an undesirable self-fulfilling prophecy, or affirms an existing one. Below are some examples of prophetic hazards at a personal level:
- Telling a pessimistic person “You are such a pessimist”.
- Telling someone who is suffering depression “You are so depressed”.
- Reminding an old person that they are old.
- Reminding a terminally ill patient that they don’t have much to live, thereby distressing them and hastening the process.
- Telling a child that they are stupid after they make a mistake.
Prophetic hazards can also exist at a societal level:
- The following belief is a common feature of right-wing ideologies: “Social inequality is a natural feature of societies, and is therefore inevitable.”
- Bernaysian approach to democracy: “Masses of working people are like a herd of sheep that are unfit to rule themselves.”
Prophetic hazards are dangerous because they reflect a certain reality, or rather, a possibility of becoming real. They push people towards slippery slopes where they can lose control. They pave paths of least resistance to catastrophes which can otherwise be avoided through effort.