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)
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)
Self-deception poses tantalizing conceptual conundrums and provides fertile ground for empirical research. Recent interdisciplinary volumes on the topic feature essays by biologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists (Lockard & Paulhus 1988, Martin 1985). Self-deception's location at the intersection of these disciplines is explained by its significance for questions of abiding interdisciplinary interest. To what extent is our mental life present--or even accessible--to consciousness? How rational are we? How is motivated irrationality to be explained? To what extent are our beliefs (...) subject to our control? What are the determinants of belief, and how does motivation bear upon belief? In what measure are widely shared psychological propensities products of evolution? (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.
The self-deceived are usually held to be moral responsible for their state. I argue that this attribution of responsibility makes sense only against the background of the traditional conception of self-deception, a conception that is now widely rejected. In its place, a new conception of self-deception has been articulated, which requires neither intentional action by self-deceived agents, nor that they possess contradictory beliefs. This new conception has neither need nor place for attributions of moral responsibility to the self-deceived (...) in paradigmatic cases. Accordingly, we should take the final step toward abandoning the traditional conception, and drop the automatic attribution of responsibility. Self-deception is simply a kind of mistake, and has no more necessary connection to culpability than have other intellectual errors. (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)
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)
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)
The ability of leaders to be perceived as trustworthy and to develop authentic and effective relationships is largely a function of their personal identities and their self-awareness in understanding and making accommodations for their weaknesses. The research about self-deception confirms that we often practice denial regarding our identities without being fully aware of the ethical duties that we owe to ourselves and to others. This article offers insights about the nature of identity and selfawareness, specifically examining how self-deception (...) can create barriers to self-awareness within both a personal and a business context. (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)
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)
I characterize a notion of internal irrationality which is central to hard cases of self-deception. I argue that if we aim to locate such internal irrationality in the _process of self-deception, we must fail. The process of self-deception, I claim, is a wholly arational affair. If we are to make a place for internal irrationality we must turn our attention to the _state of self-deception. I go on to argue that we are able to offer an (...) account of this peculiar form of irrationality only if we recognize the role the self-deceiver's own efforts at self-explanation play in the generation of internal irrationality. (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)
Self-Deception, Properly understood, Is not paradoxical. Although self-Deception involves motivated false belief, It is not properly modeled after "intentional" interpersonal deception. Thus, The major source of paradox is dissolved. Moreover, Even intentional self-Deception need not be paradoxical and there is good reason to believe that a kind of self-Deception which "would" be paradoxical never occurs. Finally, In cases of self-Deception, As in instances of akratic action, There is scope for blame.
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
The author discusses the activity of deceiving" as deceiving another and as self-deception. he attempts a logical equivalence between the two. the discussion encompasses 'belief'. the author concludes that the statement 'jones is deceiving himself' translates into "'"how could" jones believe such nonsense'?" with the answer built-in: "'he really "can't"'." (staff).
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.
Philosophers interested in the "paradox of self-Deception" have argued that self-Deception either (a) does not occur; (b) occurs but is unintelligible; or (c) can be explained by reference to sub-Components of a single personality. I argue that self-Deception can be explained as a variety of weakness of the will, Without the realist's mythology of dual or triple selves.
The philosophical difficulties presented by self-deception are vexed and multifaceted. One such difficulty is what I call the ‘doxastic problem’ of self-deception. Solving the doxastic problem involves determining whether someone in a state of self-deception that ∼p both believes that p and believes that ∼p, simply holds one or the other belief, or, as I will argue, holds neither. This final option, which has been almost entirely overlooked to-date, is what I call ‘nondoxasticism’ about self-deception. In (...) this article, I present a negative case for nondoxasticism according to which, in the paradigm case of self-deception, there is no explanatory need to attribute the self-deceived person either their undesired belief that p, or their desired belief that ∼p. Folk psychology is replete with concepts other than belief, and if we bear this in mind, it becomes clear that the explanatory roles for which the self-deceived person's purported beliefs have traditionally been enlisted can be comfortably filled without recourse to belief. (shrink)
On taking the common distinction between the legal and the ethical as a point of departure, and in an effort to understand Marshall's approach to self-interest, and thereby to his conception of an ethics of commerce, I read three of his essays in the light of some non-technical writings of Frank Hahn and three other Cambridge intellectuals. My larger project connects self-interest and self-deception to a possible ethics of theorizing in economics, and thereby to the ethics of the relationship (...) between the theorist and the theorized, the analyst and the analyzed. (shrink)
Self-Deception has traditionally been discussed in the literature in utilitarian terms. I argue in this paper that, As a defect of character, Self-Deception can be understood much more clearly using the concepts of virtue theory. I apply macintyre's distinction between internal and external goods and his discussion about the unity of a life-Narrative to self-Deception. The result is to clarify why self-Deception is a vice and when it might be justified on utilitarian grounds.
This paper aims to offer an alternative to the existing philosophical theories of self-deception. It describes and motivates a teleofunctional theory that models self-deception on the subintentional deceptions perpetrated by non-human organisms. Existing theories of self-deception generate paradoxes, are empirically implausible, or fail to account for the distinction between self-deception and other kinds of motivated irrationality. Deception is not a uniquely human phenomenon: biologists have found that many non-human organisms deceive and are deceived. A close analysis (...) of the pollination strategy of the mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) provides the basis for an analysis of non-human deception as subintentionally purposive. This teleofunctional analysis is then used as the basis for a theory of self-deception that accounts for its normative and purposive features without defaulting to intentionalism. The teleofunctional theory accounts for distinction between self-deception and phenomena such as wishful thinking in an empirically plausible manner. Three objections to the theory are considered and rejected. (shrink)
The traditional perspective on self-deception, which assumes that the mind can be simultaneously involved in contradictory stories, and that there is an integrated understanding of the "truth" somewhere inside, is apparent in most contemporary theories of psychology. A critique of the phenomenon from a postmodern perspective raises questions regarding these assumptions. Ideas from evolutionary biology and research concerning hypnotically induced amnesia are used to support the thesis that self-deception is more a cultural phenomenon maintained by the observer, than (...) a natural phenomenon situated in the individual mind. (shrink)
I offer a new account of fair-play obligations for non-excludable benefits received from the state. Firstly, I argue that non-acceptance of these benefits frees recipients of fairness obligations only when a counterfactual condition is met; i.e. when non-acceptance would hold up in the closest possible world in which recipients do not hold motivationally-biased beliefs triggered by a desire to free-ride. Secondly, I argue that because of common mechanisms of self-deception there will be recipients who reject these benefits without meeting (...) the counterfactual condition. For this reason, I suggest that those who reject non-excludable benefits provided by the state have a duty to support their rejection with adequate reasons. Failing that, they can be permissibly treated as if they had fair-play obligations (although in fact they might not have them). Thus, I claim that there is a distinction, largely unappreciated, between the question of whether we have a duty of fairness to obey the law and the question of whether we can be permissibly treated as if we had one. (shrink)
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)
I raise the question of what cognitive attitude self-deception brings about. That is: what is the product of self-deception? Robert Audi and Georges Rey have argued that self-deception does not bring about belief in the usual sense, but rather “avowal” or “avowed belief.” That means a tendency to affirm verbally (both privately and publicly) that lacks normal belief-like connections to non-verbal actions. I contest their view by discussing cases in which the product of self-deception is implicated (...) in action in a way that exemplifies the motivational role of belief. Furthermore, by applying independent criteria of what it is for a mental state to be a belief, I defend the more intuitive view that being self-deceived that p entails believing that p. Beliefs (i) are the default for action relative to other cognitive attitudes (such as imagining and hypothesis) and (ii) have cognitive governance over the other cognitive attitudes. I explicate these two relations and argue that they obtain for the product of self-deception. (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)
Blaise Pascal is highly regarded as a religious moralist, but he has rarely been given his due as an ethical theorist. The goal of this article is to assemble Pascal's scattered thoughts on moral judgment and moral wrongdoing into an explicit, coherent account that can serve as the basis for further scholarly reflection on his ethics. On my reading, Pascal affirms an axiological, social-intuitionist account of moral judgment and moral wrongdoing. He argues that a moral judgment is an immediate, intuitive (...) perception of moral value that we willfully disregard in favor of the attractive, though self-deceptive, deliverances of our socially constructed imaginations. We can deceive ourselves so easily because our capacity to evaluate goods is broken, a dark legacy of the fall. In the article's concluding section, I briefly compare Pascal to contemporary ethicists and suggest directions for future research. (shrink)