About this topic

Sustained discussions of self-deception before the 1960s are difficult to find, with notable exceptions including Bishop Butler’s sermon ‘Upon Self-Deceit’ (1914), and Jean-Paul Sartre’s discussion of the related notion of ‘bad faith’ in Being and Nothingness (1956). Interest then took off in the 1960s and 70s, mainly prompted by the perception that the idea of self-deception is paradoxical. Key questions discussed in this period were whether and how self-deception is possible. In subsequent decades the reality of self-deception has tended to be taken for granted. Two fundamental questions that still preoccupy philosophers are what is the state of being self-deceived, and what is the process that gets us into and maintains us in that state. Other questions concern the moral implications and consequences of self-deception, the differences between self-deception and kindred phenomena, whether self-deception is an evolutionary adaptation, and whether it is good for us or makes us happy. A large literature from psychology is also highly relevant to this topic and is not covered in this database, which can generally be found under the heading of ‘motivated reasoning’ or ‘motivated cognition’ in the social psychology journals. Early philosophical work on self-deception did not engage much with this empirical literature, though from the 1980s onwards interdisciplinary work has become increasingly common.

Key works Donald Davidson's early papers on self-deception and irrationality, found in his 2004 collection, were much discussed, as was David Pears' 1984 book. An influential early collection of papers is McLaughlin & Rorty 1988. Important elaborations of the 'deflationary' approach are Barnes 1997 and Mele 2001.    
Introductions Encyclopedia articles on self-deception include Deweese-Boyd 2006, Kirsch 2007 (which is more focused on self-deception and morality) and Van Leeuwen 2013Baghramian & Nicholson 2013 and Mele 1987 are relevant survey articles. 
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  1. Akratic Believing?Jonathan E. Adler - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 110 (1):1 - 27.
    Davidson's account of weakness of will depends upon a parallel that he draws between practical and theoretical reasoning. I argue that the parallel generates a misleading picture of theoretical reasoning. Once the misleading picture is corrected, I conclude that the attempt to model akratic belief on Davidson's account of akratic action cannot work. The arguments that deny the possibility of akratic belief also undermine, more generally, various attempts to assimilate theoretical to practical reasoning.
  2. Self and Deception: A Cross-Cultural Philosophical Enquiry.Roger T. Ames (ed.) - 1996 - Albany: SUNY Press.
    Distinguished scholars discuss the problem of self-deception, or rather, self and deception.
  3. Nondoxasticism About Self‐Deception.Sophie Archer - 2013 - Dialectica 67 (3):265-282.
    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, (...)
  4. Self-Deception Vs. Self-Caused Deception: A Comment on Professor Mele.Robert Audi - 1997 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20 (1):104-104.
    Mele's study of philosophical and psychological theories of self-deception informatively links the conceptual and dynamic aspects of self-deception and explicates it without positing mutually inconsistent beliefs, such as those occurring in two-person deception. It is argued, however, that he does not do full justice to the dissociation characteristic of self-deception and does not sufficiently distinguish self-deception from self-caused deception.
  5. Self-Deception and Practical Reasoning.Robert Audi - 1989 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 19 (2):247 - 266.
  6. Self-Deception, Rationalization, and Reasons for Acting.Robert Audi - 1988 - In Brian P. McLaughlin & Amelie O. Rorty (eds.), Perspectives on Self-Deception. University of California Press. pp. 92--120.
  7. Self-Deception, Action, and Will.Robert N. Audi - 1982 - Erkenntnis 18 (2):133-158.
  8. Epistemic Disavowals and Self-Deception.Robert N. Audi - 1976 - Personalist 57 (4):378-385.
  9. Self-Deception.Kent Bach - 2009 - In Brian McLaughlin, Ansgar Beckermann & Sven Walter (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.
  10. Self-Deception Unmasked. [REVIEW]Kent Bach - 2002 - Philosophical Psychology 15 (2):203-206.
    Al Mele has been as persistent as anyone in his pursuit of self-deception. He has taken it on in a series of papers over the past twenty years and at various places in previous books. The present book brings together his main ideas on the subject, and readers unfamiliar with its puzzles or Mele's approach to it will learn a lot. The cognoscenti will not only have their memories refreshed but will be treated to much that is new, including recent (...)
  11. More on Self-Deception: Reply to Hellman.Kent Bach - 1985 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 45 (June):611-614.
  12. An Analysis of Self-Deception.Kent Bach - 1981 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 41 (March):351-370.
  13. The Puzzle of Self‐Deception.Maria Baghramian & Anna Nicholson - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (11):1018-1029.
    It is commonly accepted that people can, and regularly do, deceive themselves. Yet closer examination reveals a set of conceptual puzzles that make self-deception difficult to explain. Applying the conditions for other-deception to self-deception generates what are known as the ‘paradoxes’ of belief and intention. Simply put, the central problem is how it is possible for me to believe one thing, and yet intentionally cause myself to simultaneously believe its contradiction. There are two general approaches taken by philosophers to account (...)
  14. Self-Deception and Agential Authority: A Constructivist Account.Carla Bagnoli - 2012 - Humana Mente 20:93-116.
    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 (...)
  15. The Intersections Between Self-Deception and Inconsistency.Hannah Bahnmiller - 2015 - Stance 8:71-80.
    The relationship between the concepts of bad faith, coined by Jean-Paul Sartre, and cognitive dissonance, developed by Leon Festinger, is often misunderstood. Frequently, the terms are over-generalized and equivocated as synonymous ideas. This paper attempts to clarify the intricacies of these two concepts, outlining their similarities and differences.
  16. The Vital but Dangerous Art of Ignoring: Selective Attention and Self-Deception.Annette C. Baier - 1996 - In Roger T. Ames & Wimal Dissanayake (eds.), Self and Deception: A Cross-Cultural Philosophical Enquiry. Albany: SUNY Press.
  17. Seeing Through Self-Deception.Annette Barnes - 1997 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
    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 (...)
  18. What is Wrong with Self-Deception.Marcia Baron - 1988 - In Brian P. McLaughlin & Amelie O. Rorty (eds.), Perspectives on Self-Deception. University of California Press. pp. 431--449.
  19. Self-Deception and Selectivity: Reply to Jurjako.Jose Luis Bermudez - 2017 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 17 (1):91-95.
    Marko Jurjako’s article “Self-deception and the selectivity problem” (Jurjako 2013) offers a very interesting discussion of intentionalist approaches to self-deception and in particular the selectivity objection to anti-intentionalism raised in Bermúdez 1997 and 2000. This note responds to Jurjako’s claim that intentionalist models of self-deception face their own version of the selectivity problem, offering an account of how intentions are formed that can explain the selectivity of self-deception, even in the “common or garden” cases that Jurjako emphasizes.
  20. Self-Deception, Intentions and Contradictory Beliefs.José Luis Bermúdez - 2000 - Analysis 60 (4):309-319.
    Philosophical accounts of self-deception can be divided into two broad groups – the intentionalist and the anti-intentionalist. On intentionalist models what happens in the central cases of self-deception is parallel to what happens when one person intentionally deceives another, except that deceiver and deceived are the same person. This paper offers a positive argument for intentionalism about self-deception and defends the view against standard objections.
  21. La satisfaction d'être dupe.Renée Bilodeau - 2001 - Philosophiques 28 (2):381-393.
    Je me propose d'examiner la solution davidsonnienne au problème de la duperie de soi afin de clarifier en quel sens il s'agit d'un acte intentionnel. Après une étude de quelques difficultés liées au concept même de duperie de soi, mon analyse met en lumière que la notion de partition de l'esprit que Davidson emprunte à son traitement de la faiblesse de la volonté ne peut être appliquée de manière satisfaisante à ce nouveau problème. J'indique ensuite que non seulement Davidson mais (...)
  22. Donald Davidson, Paradoxes de l'irrationalité, tr. de Pascal Engel, Combas, Éditions de l'Éclat, coll. « Tiré à part », 1991. [REVIEW]Renée Bilodeau - 1993 - Philosophiques 20 (2):503-506.
    Compte-rendu de trois articles de Donald Davidson "Paradoxes of Irrationality", "Deception and Division" et "Rational Animals".
  23. Rationality and the Structure of Self-Deception.Alexander Bird - 1994 - In Gianfranco Soldati (ed.), European Review of Philosophy, 1: Philosophy of Mind. Stanford: CSLI Publications. pp. 19-38.
  24. Wishful Hope.Roland Bluhm - 2010 - In Janet Horrigan & Ed Wiltse (eds.), Hope Against Hope: Philosophies, Cultures and Politics of Possibility and Doubt. Rodopi. pp. 35-53.
    The paper aims at characterising self-deceptive hope, a certain kind of ir-rational hoping. The focus is on ordinary, intentional hope exclusively, i. e. on acts of hoping with a definite object (in contrast to dispositional forms of hope such as hopefulness). If a person S hopes in this way that p, she desires that p, she has a belief about the probability of p, and she affec-tively evaluates this probability in one of two ways: We can distinguish between anxious and (...)
  25. The Self Deceived.Sissela Bok - 1980 - Social Science Information 19 (6):923-935.
  26. Motivated Irrationality: The Case of Self-Deception (Irracionalidad Motivada: El Caso Del Autoengaño).Montserrat Bordes - 2001 - Critica 33 (97):3 - 32.
    This paper inquires into the conceptual nature of self-deception. I shall afford a theory which links SD to wishful thinking. First I present two rival models for the analysis of SD, and suggest reasons why the interpersonal model is flawed. It is necessary for supporters of this model to work out a strategy that avoids the ascription of inconsistency to the self-deceiver in order to fulfill the requirements of the charity principle. Some objections to the compartmentalization strategy are put forward, (...)
  27. The Myth of Self-Deception.Steffen Borge - 2003 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 41 (1):1-28.
  28. Self-Deception, Delusion and the Boundaries of Folk Psychology.Lisa Bortolotti & Matteo Mameli - 2018 - Humana Mente 5 (20).
    To what extent do self-deception and delusion overlap? In this paper we argue that both self-deception and delusions can be understood in folk-psychological terms. “Motivated” delusions, just like self-deception, can be described as beliefs driven by personal interests. If self-deception can be understood folk-psychologically because of its motivational component, so can motivated delusions. Non-motivated delusions also fit the folk-psychological notion of belief, since they can be described as hypotheses one endorses when attempting to make sense of unusual and powerful experiences. (...)
  29. Authenticity in Kurosawa.Luc Bovens - 1999 - Journal of Value Inquiry 33 (2):227-237.
    Much of the contemporary philosophical literature on authenticity is secondary work on figures like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus. I would like to find a different voice by searching for inspiration in the artistic expression that the theme of authenticity has found in the oeuvre of the Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa. To be authentic is to be true to ourselves. But what is it to be true to ourselves? The locution suggests that authenticity has something to do with the (...)
  30. The Emplotted Self: Self-Deception and Self-Knowledge.Rachel Brown - 2003 - Philosophical Papers 32 (3):279-300.
    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 (...)
  31. Alfred R. Mele, Self-Deception Unmasked. [REVIEW]Steven Burns - 2004 - Philosophy in Review 24:215-216.
  32. Self-Deception and Autobiography: Theological and Ethical Reflections on Speer's "Inside the Third Reich".David Burrell & Stanley Hauerwas - 1974 - Journal of Religious Ethics 2 (1):99 - 117.
    Albert Speer's life offers a paradigm of self-deception, and his autobiography serves to illustrate Fingarette's account of self-deception as a persistent failure to spell out our engagements in the world. Using both Speer and Fingarette, we show how self-deception becomes our lot as the stories we adopt to shape our lives cover up what is destructive in our activity. Had Speer not settled for the neutral label of "architect," he might have found a story substantive enough to allow him to (...)
  33. Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel ; and, a Dissertation Upon the Nature of Virtue.Joseph Butler & W. R. Matthews - 1914 - Bell.
  34. Self-Deception.John V. Canfield & Don F. Gustavson - 1962 - Analysis 23 (December):32-36.
  35. Paradoxes of Self-Deception.John V. Canfield & Patrick Mcnally - 1960 - Analysis 21 (June):140-144.
  36. Responsibility for Reason-Giving: The Case of Individual Tainted Reasoning in Systemic Corruption.Emanuela Ceva & Lubomira Radoilska - forthcoming - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-21.
    The paper articulates a new understanding of individual responsibility focused on exercises of agency in reason-giving rather than intentional actions or attitudes towards others. Looking at how agents make sense of their actions, we identify a distinctive but underexplored space for assessing individual responsibility within collective actions. As a case in point, we concentrate on reason-giving for one's own involvement in systemic corruption. We characterize systemic corruption in terms of its public ‘unavowability’ and focus on the redescriptions to which corrupt (...)
  37. Mike W. Martin, Ed., Self-Deception and Self-Understanding. [REVIEW]T. Champlin - 1986 - Philosophy in Review 6:76-79.
  38. Reflexive Paradoxes.T. S. Champlin - 1988 - Routledge.
    Introduction At some point in your life you will have told a lie and have been believed. You will have deceived the person to whom you lied. ...
  39. Self-Deception in Second-Rate English.T. S. Champlin - 1984 - Philosophy 59 (228):259 - 261.
  40. Self-Deception: A Reflexive Dilemma.T. S. Champlin - 1977 - Philosophy 52 (201):281 - 299.
  41. Deceit, Deception and the Self-Deceiver.T. Stephen Champlin - 1994 - Philosophical Investigations 17 (1):53-58.
  42. Self-Deception: A Problem About Autobiography.T. Stephen Champlin - 1979 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 77:77-94.
  43. Double Deception.T. Stephen Champlin - 1976 - Mind 85 (January):100-102.
  44. Analyzing the Concept of Self-Deception in Indian Cultural Context.Reena Cheruvalath - 2012 - Cultura 9 (1):195-204.
    It is proposed to examine the need for redefining self deception in an Indian socio-cultural context and also on the basis of different social roles that one plays in his/her life time. Self-deception can be defined as the process of acting or behaving against one’s true inner feelings to maintain one’s social status. The conceptconsists of two aspects: maintaining a belief and the behavioral expression of it. Most of the time, deception occurs in the latter part, because it helps the (...)
  45. Pears, D., "Motivated Irrationality". [REVIEW]J. Church - 1988 - Mind 97:471.
  46. Deciding to Believe Without Self-Deception.J. Thomas Cook - 1987 - Journal of Philosophy 84 (August):441-446.
  47. From Self-Deception to Self-Control.Vasco Correia - 2014 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 14 (3):309-323.
    ‘Intentionalist’ approaches portray self-deceivers as “akratic believers”, subjects who deliberately choose to believe p despite knowing that p is false. In this paper I argue that the intentionalist model leads to a number of paradoxes that seem to undermine it. I claim that these paradoxes can nevertheless be overcome in light of the rival hypothesis that self-deception is a non-intentional process that stems from the influence of emotions upon cognitive processes. Furthermore, I propose a motivational interpretation of the phenomenon of (...)
  48. Une conception émotionnaliste de la self-deception.Vasco Correia - 2007 - Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):3.
  49. Self-Deception Without Paradox.Dante A. Cosentino - 1980 - Philosophy Research Archives 1388:443-465.
    In this paper a view of self-deception is given which eliminates the paradox usually associated with self-deception.Self-deception is distinguished from ignorance, false belief, wishful thinking, and reluctance to believe. Through an analysis of ordinary language, the role of knowing and believing in self-deception is examined as well as the notion of the self-deceived person "persuading himself to believe." The role of intention and the function of "self" in "self-deception" is analyzed through a discussion of evidence and interpretation.It is shown that (...)
  50. Belief, Contradiction and the Logic of Self-Deception.Newton Ca Da Costa & Steven French - 1990 - American Philosophical Quarterly 27 (3):179-197.
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