Example statement: 'life is fair'. Is there a more specific term other than fallacy? Maybe a subset of fallacy that also indicates comfort in believing it.
I'd call it wishful thinking:
- the attribution of reality to what one wishes to be true or the tenuous justification of what one wants to believe.
Some words that could apply to a "statement which is false but comfortable to believe in"
As defined in Cambridge Dictionary
a remark or statement that may be true but is boring and has no meaning because it has been said so many times before
a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.
a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate.
"feel-good bromides create the illusion of problem solving"
a commonplace or hackneyed statement or notion
Going off of the first answer and comment, I think the following might be useful:
fantasy - all-purpose description of a belief in something false that is pleasing.
delusion - belief in something false that is usually pleasing or at least very convincing to the thinker but has negative consequences for themselves or for others.
self-deception - similar to delusion but with less of a connotation of badly disordered thinking. A self-deception to me seems to indicate something like rationalization.
Others, in no particular order:
- pipe dream
People often call a statement which is false but comforting to believe in a "beautiful lie". But it can be used in other contexts when a lie can somehow appear to have its merits.
The problem with using "beautiful lie" is you have to ask yourself at that point if you may as well say "comforting idea"/"comforting lie"/"convenient lie".
I'm not sure I would call it a term/phrase; it's definitely been said many times but I still think it hasn't taken on any meaning beyond the meaning of the two words themselves.
This is a stretch, but you could refer to such ideas as "fairytales". But that's definitely a loaded way of referring to them. "Folklore" sounds a little less belittling. Neither are really perfect, and definitely are not exactly what you're looking for.
All the things I mentioned can mean different things in different contexts. None of them explicitly refer to comforting ideas that are hard to prove but are widely believed.
Oh wow. Well you could refer to it as a "religion". But yeah that might be even more loaded than "fairytale".
The word "reassurement" (it's on dictionary.com but spell check thinks it's not a word) means exactly what you'd think it does. It also has no connotations of being untrue but a phrase like "everything's going to be OK" is sort of a reassurement. And perhaps often when people say phrases like that and "life is fair" they are also in part reassuring themselves.
A "hoax" fits a lot of the rules. Many people are affected by a hoax, a hoax is generally something most people perceive as being good (so comforting [before they realize its a hoax] ). But a hoax has a perpetrator who wishes to deceive people in some way. Does the person saying "life is fair" wish to deceive anyone? Definitely not typically. And often they themselves believe the lie. So "hoax" really does not work. A bit of a problem here is the type of statement your talking about is probably typically not an "intentional lie".
What it really is is a comforting untruth or falsehood. Since typically when the words are uttered I think the people believe them to some extent. But yeah it all depends on the context. It's a falsehood though, yeah.
And ideas such as "life is fair" are often alluded to in ways like "these lies we tell ourselves". But obviously you're here looking for a one-word solution.
How about pleasant fiction?
An example from the movie Gladiator:
Marcus Aurelius: Let us pretend that you are a loving daughter, and I am a good father.
Lucilla: This is a pleasant fiction, is it not?
Since you specifically mention fallacies, one cognitive bias comes to mind that applies to some of the types of statement you describe: the optimism bias.
For example, I could choose to believe that my health is not going to be affected by consuming junk food. This is — as you put it — false, but comfortable to believe in. This is optimism bias in action.
Of course, it doesn't apply to some untrue statements which you might take comfort in believing in for some reason other than optimism.
The optimism bias (also known as unrealistic or comparative optimism) is a cognitive bias that causes a person to believe that they are less at risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others.
This is not so far from the meaning of "foma", a word which Kurt Vonnegut made up and introduced in his novel "Cat's Cradle". It is not widely used. The emphasis in the term "foma" is on the idea that the falsehoods involved actually make one a happier and healthier person.
It's the opposite of an inconvenient truth. So: a convenient untruth.
a : a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief and usually regarded by others as empty of real meaning: the old shibboleths come rolling off their lips — Joseph Epstein
b : a widely held belief: today this book publishing shibboleth is a myth — L. A. Wood
Not necessarily a false statement, but false statements qualify.
If it is ok for it to be actively harmful rather than just untrue this would be a great metaphor that would be widely understood.
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.
It might be a little dramatic for your use.
sham or myth
It's probably a sham. It happens all the time - people love to believe in shams, even the obvious ones.
Also, myth may work.
Sophistry would probably do. It's where an argument makes sense at first glance and sounds plausible but when you investigate it further it's nonsense, usually deliberately deceptive.
focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance, as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it.
"The Fox and the Grapes" by Aesop. When the fox fails to reach the grapes, he decides he does not want them after all. Rationalization is often involved in reducing anxiety about conflicting cognitions, according to cognitive dissonance theory.