I argue here that self-deception is not conducive to happiness. There is a long train of thought in social psychology that seems to say that it is, but proper understanding of the data does not yield this conclusion. Illusion must be distinguished from mere imagining. Self-deception must be distinguished from self-inflation bias and from self-fulfilling belief. Once these distinctions are in place, the case for self-deception falls apart. Furthermore, by yielding false beliefs, self-deception undermines desire satisfaction. (...) Finally, I argue for the positive view that *honest imagining* can yield the psychological benefits that others have claimed for self-deception. (shrink)
In this entry, I seek to show the interdependence of questions about self-deception in philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics. I taxonomize solutions to the paradoxes of self-deception, present possible psychological mechanisms behind it, and highlight how different approaches to the philosophy of mind and psychology will affect how we answer important ethical questions. Is self-deception conducive to happiness? How does self-deception affect responsibility? Is there something intrinsically wrong with self-deception? The entry, on the one (...) hand, is a tour of the literature; on the other, it is a case for more work that crosses traditional sub-disciplinary boundaries. (shrink)
The orthodox answer to my question is this: in a case of self-deception, the self acts to deceive itself. That is, the self is the author of its own deception. I want to explore an opposing idea here: that the self is rather the subject matter of the deception. That is, I want to explore the idea that self-deception is more concerned with the self’s deception about the self, than with the self’s deception by the self. The expression (...) would thus be semantically comparable to expressions like ‘self-knowledge’ (which involves knowledge about the self) rather than to expressions like ‘self-control’ (which involves control by the self).1 On this approach, what goes wrong, when we are self-deceived, is that we lack self-knowledge; or, more accurately, since one can lack knowledge without falling into error, what goes wrong is that we have false beliefs about ourselves. Not any kind of false belief about oneself; I am not self-deceived when I mistake my shoe size. Rather, self-deception requires false beliefs about the kind of subject matter that, were one to get it right, would constitute self-knowledge. It is an interesting fact about current English that, though we talk freely of self-knowledge, we have no common term to designate its absence. Seventeenth century writers talked of self-ignorance; but the term has fallen from use. I suggest that ‘self-deception’ is the nearest we have. (shrink)
Abstract The principal aim of this paper is to give a positive analysis of self-deception. I argue that self-deception is a species ?self-emplotment?. Through narrative self-emplotment one groups the events of one's life thematically in order to understand and monitor oneself. I argue that self-emplotment is an unextraordinary feature of mental life that is a precondition of agency. Self-emplotment, however, proceeds according to certain norms, some of which provide apparent justification for self-deceptive activity. A secondary aim of the (...) paper is to sketch the common characteristics between self-deception and self-knowledge. The framework of self-emplotment from which self-deception can emerge is also the framework that delivers self-knowledge; to the extent that the activity of self-emplotment is partially constitutive of what it means to possess self-knowledge, the self-deceiver may be closer to a state of self-knowledge than the person who fails to engage in significant introspective narrative. (shrink)
This paper proposes that self-deception results from the emotional coherence of beliefs with subjective goals. We apply the HOTCO computational model of emotional coherence to simulate a rich case of self-deception from Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.We argue that this model is more psychologically realistic than other available accounts of self-deception, and discuss related issues such as wishful thinking, intention, and the division of the self.
Here I review Robert Trivers' 2011 book _The Folly of Fools_, in which he advocates the evolutionary theory of deceit and self-deception that he pioneered in his famous preface to Richard Dawkins' _Selfish Gene_. Although the book contains a wealth of interesting discussion on topics ranging from warfare to immunology, I find it lacking on two major fronts. First, it fails to give a proper argument for its central thesis--namely, that self-deception evolved to facilitate deception of others. Second, (...) the book lacks conceptual clarity with respect to the focal term "self-deception.". (shrink)
Hypocrites are generally regarded as morally-corrupt, cynical egoists who consciously and deliberately deceive others in order to further their own interests. The purpose of my essay is to present a different view. I argue that hypocrisy typically involves or leads to self-deception and, therefore, that real hypocrites are hard to find. One reason for this merging of hypocrisy into self-deception is that a consistent and conscious deception of society is self-defeating from the point of view of egoistical hypocrites. (...) The best way for them to achieve their ends would be to believe in the deception, thereby not only deceiving others but also themselves. If my thesis is sound, we ought to be more cautious in ascribing hypocrisy to people, and less harsh in our attitude toward hypocrites. (shrink)
What is it to deceive someone? And how is it possible to deceive oneself? Does self-deception require that people be taken in by a deceitful strategy that they know is deceitful? The literature is divided between those who argue that self-deception is intentional and those who argue that it is non-intentional. In this study, Annette Barnes offers a challenge to both the standard characterisation of other-deception and current characterizations of self-deception, examining the available explanations and exploring such (...) questions as the self-deceiver's false consciousness, bias, and the irrationality and objectionability of self-deception. She arrives at a non-intentional account of self-deception that is deeper and more complete than alternative non-intentional accounts and avoids the reduction of self-deceptive belief to wishful belief. (shrink)
In instances of "twisted" self-deception, people deceive themselves into believing things that they do not want to be true. In this, twisted self-deception differs markedly from the "straight" variety that has dominated the philosophical and psychological literature on self-deception. Drawing partly upon empirical literature, I develop a trio of approaches to explaining twisted self-deception: a motivation-centered approach; an emotion-centered approach; and a hybrid approach featuring both motivation and emotion. My aim is to display our resources for (...) exploring and explaining twisted self-deception and to show that promising approaches are consistent with a plausible position on straight self-deception. (shrink)
One of the most common views about self-deception ascribes contradictory beliefs to the self-deceiver. In this paper it is argued that this view (the contradiction strategy) is inconsistent with plausible common-sense principles of belief attribution. Other dubious assumptions made by contradiction strategists are also examined. It is concluded that the contradiction strategy is an inadequate account of self-deception. Two other well-known views — those of Robert Audi and Alfred Mele — are investigated and found wanting. A new theory (...) of self-deception relying on an extension of Mark Johnston's subintentional mental tropisms is proposed and defended. (shrink)
Cases in which people are self-deceived seem to require that the person hold two contradictory beliefs, something which appears to be impossible or implausible. A phenomenon seen in some brain-damaged patients known as confabulation (roughly, an ongoing tendency to make false utterances without intent to deceive) can shed light on the problem of self-deception. The conflict is not actually between two beliefs, but between two representations, a 'conceptual' one and an 'analog' one. In addition, confabulation yields valuable clues about (...) the structure of normal human knowledge-gathering processes. (shrink)
This paper argues that self-deception cannot be explained without employing a depth-psychological ("psychodynamic") notion of the unconscious, and therefore that mainstream academic psychology must make space for such approaches. The paper begins by explicating the notion of a dynamic unconscious. Then a brief account is given of the "paradoxes" of self-deception. It is shown that a depth-psychological self of parts and subceptive agency removes any such paradoxes. Next, several competing accounts of self-deception are considered: an attentional account, (...) a constructivist account, and a neo-Sartrean account. Such accounts are shown to face a general dilemma: either they are able only to explain unmotivated errors of self-perception--in which case they are inadequate for their intended purpose--or they are able to explain motivated self-deception, but do so only by being instantiation mechanisms for depth-psychological processes. The major challenge to this argument comes from the claim that self-deception has a "logic" different to other-deception--the position of Alfred Mele. In an extended discussion it is shown that any such account is explanatorily adequate only for some cases of self-deception--not by any means all. Concluding remarks leave open to further empirical work the scope and importance of depth-psychological approaches. (shrink)
There are at least three basic phenomena that philosophers traditionally classify as paradigm cases of irrationality. In the first two cases, wishful thinking and self-deception, a person wants something to be true and therefore ignores certain relevant facts about the situation, making it appear to herself that it is, in fact, true. The third case, weakness of will, involves a person undertaking a certain action, despite taking herself to have an all-things-considered better reason not to do so. While I (...) think that Stephen Colbert's notion of "truthiness" might be able to fit the mold of each of these three kinds of irrationality, it applies most directly to cases of wishful thinking and self-deception — and it’s these two types of irrationality that I discuss extensively in this paper. As we will see, there are some troubling philosophical problems that arise regarding phenomena like self-deception. But we can use the concept of truthiness to show how these “paradoxes of irrationality” may be resolved without denying the fundamental irrationality of truthiness itself. (shrink)
This paper takes a constitutivist approach to self-deception, and argues that this phenomenon should be evaluated under several dimensions of rationality. The constitutivist approach has the merit of explaining the selective nature of self-deception as well as its being subject to moral sanction. Self-deception is a pragmatic strategy for maintaining the stability of the self, hence continuous with other rational activities of self-constitution. However, its success is limited, and it costs are high: it protects the agent’s self (...) by undermining the authority she has on her mental life. To this extent, self-deception is akin to alienation and estrangement. Its morally disturbing feature is its self-serving partiality. The self-deceptive agent settles on standards of justification that are lower than any rational agent would adopt, and thus loses grip on her agency. To capture the moral dimension of self-deception, I defend a Kantian account of the constraints that bear on self-constitution, and argue that it warrants more discriminating standards of agential autonomy than other contemporary minimalist views of self-government. (shrink)
Do computers have beliefs? I argue that anyone who answers in the affirmative holds a view that is incompatible with what I shall call the commonsense approach to the propositional attitudes. My claims shall be two. First,the commonsense view places important constraints on what can be acknowledged as a case of having a belief. Second, computers – at least those for which having a belief would be conceived as having a sentence in a belief box – fail to satisfy some (...) of these constraints. This second claim can best be brought out in the context of an examination of the idea of computer self-knowledge and self-deception, but the conclusion is perfectly general: the idea that computers are believers, like the idea that computers could have self-knowledge or be self-deceived, is incompatible with the commonsense view. The significance of the argument lies in the choice it forces on us: whether to revise our notion of belief so as to accommodate the claim that computers are believers, or to give up on that claim so as to preserve our pretheoretic notion of the attitudes. We cannot have it both ways. (shrink)
This essay is a plea for the view that philosophers should analyze the concept of self-deception more with the aim of having useful applications for empirical research. This is especially desirable because psychologists often use different, even incompat-ible conceptions of self-deception when investigating the factual conditions and con-sequences, as well as the very existence, of the phenomenon. At the same time, philosophers who exploit psychological research on human cognition and reasoning in order to better understand self-deception fail (...) to realize that these theories and data are loaded with problematic assumptions. More specifically, I discuss what conceptions of rationality are assumed when we describe cases of self-deception as either irra-tional or as adaptively rational, and how competing ontological models of the self ap-pear in different accounts of self-deception. I argue, first, that although the self typically is an object of such deception, it is not always so. Secondly, while it is the subject of deception, it is so only in a moderate way: We need neither assume multi-ple selves, nor is self-deception typically brought about or sustained intentionally. However, the avoidance of self-deception is at least sometimes under the subject’s ra-tional control. This account does not take for granted the existence of the phenomenon of self-deception. It is a serious task of empirical research to figure out whether self-deception really occurs. This issue also depends on the question ignored until now of what normative conception of rationality is assumed when one views certain beliefs as self-deceptive. (shrink)
In Part I, I consider the normal contexts of assertions of belief and declarations of intentions, arguing that many action-guiding beliefs are accepted uncritically and even pre-consciously. I analyze the function of avowals as expressions of attempts at self-transformation. It is because assertions of beliefs are used to perform a wide range of speech acts besides that of speaking the truth, and because there is a large area of indeterminacy in such assertions, that self-deception is possible. In Part II, (...) I analyze the conditions of self-deception, and discuss the grounds on which it is regarded as irrational, even when particular instances may be beneficial. I consider some of the classical analyses of the motives for self-deception, and attempt to give an account of the occasions in which it is likely to occur. In the final section, I discuss the complex organization of the self that is presupposed by the phenomena of self-deception. (shrink)
I argue that the extant theories of self-deception face a counterexample which shows the essential role of instability in the face of attentive consciousness in characterising self-deception. I argue further that this poses a challenge to the interpretist approach to the mental. I consider two revisions of the interpretist approach which might be thought to deal with this challenge and outline why they are unsuccessful. The discussion reveals a more general difficulty for Interpretism. Principles of reasoning—in particular, the (...) requirement of total evidence—are given a weight in attentive consciousness which does not correspond to our reflective judgement of their weight. Successful interpretation does not involve ascribing beliefs and desires by reference to what a subject ought to believe and desire, contrary to what Interpretists suggest. (shrink)
Is it possible for me to believe what I know not to be the case? It certainly does not seem possible for me, at the same time, to be aware of the fact that a given proposition is true and yet believe that the proposition is false. Models of self?deception which have the implication that this is possible are usually described as ?paradoxical?. However, many philosophers believe that there are genuine cases of self?deception which non?paradoxical models of self?deception mirror and (...) elucidate. In the present article the author considers what he takes to be the leading contenders among non?paradoxical (or seemingly non?paradoxical) models of self?deception. He concludes from his analysis that it is not clear that any of these models mirror actual cases of self?deception and that it is not even obvious that there are actual cases of self?deception to be mirrored. (shrink)
Abstract: In Chapter 4 of his "Self-Deception Unmasked" (SDU), Al Mele considers several (attempted) empirical demonstrations of self-deception. These empirical demonstrations work under the conception of what Mele refers to as the 'dual-belief requirement', in which an agent simultaneously holds a belief p and a belief ~p. Toward the end of this chapter, Mele considers the argument of one biologist and anthropologist, Robert Trivers, who describes what he takes to be an evolutionary explanation for coming to form false (...) beliefs. Mele argues briefly that Trivers's account is no more explanatory than a similar one that does not include the dual-belief requirement. I present a case describing Trivers' analysis, show how Mele might reply to it. After briefly explaining Mele's sufficient conditions for entering self-deception from Chapter 3 of SDU, I'll consider what it means to hold the dual-belief. I'll then consider what I take to be a class of cases of self-deception which rely on genetic determinism, which I take to satisfy the dual-belief condition. (shrink)
Part of a special Issue on Robert Trivers’ The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self‐Deception in Human Life, with some focus on the implication of self-deception and related mental states for meaning in life.
Stubborn belief, like self-deception, is a species of motivated irrationality. The nature of stubborn belief, however, has not been investigated by philosophers, and it is something that poses a challenge to some prominent accounts of self-deception. In this paper, I argue that the case of stubborn belief constitutes a counterexample to Alfred Mele’s proposed set of sufficient conditions for self-deception, and I attempt to distinguish between the two. The recognition of this phenomenon should force an amendment in (...) this account, and should also make a Mele-style deflationist think more carefully about the kinds of motivational factors operating in self-deception. (shrink)
My central question in this paper is how delusional beliefs are related to self-deception. In section 1, I summarize my position on what self-deception is and how representative instances of it are to be explained. I turn to delusions in section 2, where I focus on the Capgras delusion, delusional jealousy (or the Othello syndrome), and the reverse Othello syndrome.
In this note I argue that although Rorty's programme (Inquiry, Vol. 15, No. 4) to bring into focus the role that belief plays in self?deception is a salutary one, her actual claims obscure that role. It is also contended that Rorty fails to de?mythologize self?deception, since her account is either paradox?ridden or else describes a concept recognizably distinct from the concept of self?deception.
A distinction can be made between those who think that self-deception is frequently intentional and those who don’t. I argue that the idea that self-deception has to be intentional can be partly traced to a particular invalid method for analyzing reflexive expressions of the form ‘Ving oneself’ (where V stands for a verb). However, I take the question of whether intentional self-deception is possible to be intrinsically interesting, and investigate the prospects for such an alleged possibility. Various (...) potential strategies of intentional self-deception are examined in relation to Alfred Mele’s suggestion that doing something intentionally implies doing it knowingly. It is suggested that the best prospects for an intentionalist theory of self-deception lie with a strategy involving the control of attention. (shrink)
Although much human action serves as proof that irrational behavior is remarkably common, certain forms of irrationality--most notably, incontinent action and self-deception--pose such difficult theoretical problems that philosophers have rejected them as logically or psychologically impossible. Here, Mele shows that, and how, incontinent action and self-deception are indeed possible. Drawing upon recent experimental work in the psychology of action and inference, he advances naturalized explanations of akratic action and self-deception while resolving the paradoxes around which the philosophical (...) literature revolves. In addition, he defends an account of self-control, argues that "strict" akratic action is an insurmountable obstacle for traditional belief-desire models of action-explanation, and explains how a considerably modified model accommodates action of this sort. (shrink)
Philosophy as Fiction seeks to account for the peculiar power of philosophical literature by taking as its case study the paradigmatic generic hybrid of the twentieth century, Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time. At once philosophical--in that it presents claims, and even deploys arguments concerning such traditionally philosophical issues as knowledge, self-deception, selfhood, love, friendship, and art--and literary, in that its situations are imaginary and its stylization inescapably prominent, Proust's novel presents us with a conundrum. How should it (...) be read? Can the two discursive structures co-exist, or must philosophy inevitably undermine literature (by sapping the narrative of its vitality) and literature undermine philosophy (by placing its claims in the mouth of an often unreliable narrator)? In the case of Proust at least, the result is greater than the sum of its parts. Not only can a coherent, distinctive philosophical system be extracted from the Recherche, once the narrator's periodic waywardness is taken into account; not only does a powerfully original style pervade its every nook, overtly reinforcing some theories and covertly exemplifying others; but aspects of the philosophy also serve literary ends, contributing more to character than to conceptual framework. What is more, aspects of the aesthetics serve philosophical ends, enabling a reader to engage in an active manner with an alternative art of living. Unlike the "essay" Proust might have written, his novel grants us the opportunity to use it as a practice ground for cooperation among our faculties, for the careful sifting of memories, for the complex procedures involved in self-fashioning, and for the related art of self-deception. It is only because the narrator's insights do not always add up--a weakness, so long as one treats the novel as a straightforward treatise--that it can produce its training effect, a feature that turns out to be its ultimate strength. (shrink)
Theories of self-deception divide into those that hold that the state is characterized by some kind of synchronic tension or conflict between propositional attitudes and those that deny this. Proponents of the latter like Al Mele claim that their theories are more parsimonious, because they do not require us to postulate any psychological mechanisms beyond those which have been independently verified. But if we can show that there are real cases of motivated believing which are characterized by conflicting propositional (...) attitudes, however, the parsimony argument against incongruent mental state accounts is undermined. I argue that anosognosia presents us with a real-life example of motivated belief together with (sub)-doxastic conflict. (shrink)