High anxiety: Barnes on what moves the unwelcome believer

Philosophical Psychology 14 (3):313 – 326 (2001)
Wishful thinking and self-deception are instances of motivated believing. According to an influential view, the motivated believer is moved by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain; i.e. the motive of the motivated believer is strictly hedonic--typically, the reduction of anxiety. This anxiety reduction account would, however, appear to face a serious challenge: cases of unwelcome motivated believing [Barnes (1997) Seeing through self-deception, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Scott-Kakures (2000) Motivated believing: wishful and unwelcome, Nous, 34, 348-375] or "twisted" self-deception [Mele (1999) Twisted self-deception, Philosophical Psychology, 12, 117-137]. Annette Barnes (1997) has recently argued that the anxiety reduction account can, in fact, handle such cases. I show that the anxiety reduction account cannot explain cases of unwelcome believing. Neither precipitous unwelcome believing nor the intensive and recurrent testing of unwelcome hypotheses characteristic of cases of self-deception can be explained by such a view. We have reason, then, to reject the notion that the motivated believer is moved by strictly hedonic interests.
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