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Summary

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. added 2020-05-14
    Self-deception, intentions and the folk-psychological explanation of action (in Croatian).Marko Jurjako - forthcoming - Prolegomena: Časopis Za Filozofiju.
    In the paper, I examine the conditions that are necessary for the correct characterization of the phenomenon of self-deception. Deflationists believe that the phenomenon of self-deception can be characterized as a kind of motivationally biased belief-forming process. They face the selectivity problem according to which the presence of a desire for something to be the case is not enough to produce a self-deceptive belief. Intentionalists argue that the solution to the selectivity problem consists in invoking the notion of intention. According (...)
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  2. added 2020-05-01
    Instantaneous Self-Deception.Maiya Jordan - forthcoming - Tandf: Inquiry:1-26.
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  3. added 2020-05-01
    Self-Deception Reduces Cognitive Load: The Role of Involuntary Conscious Memory Impairment.Zengdan Jian, Wenjie Zhang, Ling Tian, Wei Fan & Yiping Zhong - 2019 - Frontiers in Psychology 10.
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  4. added 2020-05-01
    Ambivalence and Self-Deception: Reframing the Debate.Francesco Poggiani - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (2):387-407.
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  5. added 2020-05-01
    Self-Deception in Belief Acquisition.Mario R. Echano - 2019 - Kritike 13 (2):131-155.
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  6. added 2020-05-01
    Self-Deception as a Philosophical Problem.Zeynep Talay Turner - 2019 - In Garry L. Hagberg (ed.), Narrative and Self-Understanding. Palgrave.
    To varying degrees the philosophical problem of self-deception has occupied philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche. Do we deceive ourselves or not? If so, in what circumstances do we deceive ourselves or let some others deceive us? What consequences may it have? Is it something that we should avoid or can it have positive consequences for the person? Such questions find many of their answers in a debate between intentionalist and non-intentionalist theories. However, I distinguish here between the cognitive and the (...)
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  7. added 2020-05-01
    Self-Deception and Shifting Degrees of Belief.Chi Yin Chan & Darrell P. Rowbottom - 2019 - Philosophical Psychology 32 (8):1204-1220.
    A major problem posed by cases of self-deception concerns the inconsistent behavior of the self-deceived subject (SDS). How can this be accounted for, in terms of propositional attitudes and other mental states? In this paper, we argue that key problems with two recent putative solutions, due to Mele and Archer, are avoided by “the shifting view” that has been advanced elsewhere in order to explain cases where professed beliefs conflict with actions. We show that self-deceived agents may possess highly unstable (...)
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  8. added 2020-05-01
    The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics, and Religion.Adrian Bardon - 2019 - Oup Usa.
    This volume is a wide-ranging examination of denial and ideological denialism. It offers a readable overview of the psychology and social science of bias, self-deception, and denial, and examines the role of ideological denialism in conflicts over science and public policy, politics, and culture.
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  9. added 2020-05-01
    Self, Deception, and Self-Deception in Philosophy.Robert C. Solomon - 2009 - In Clancy Martin (ed.), The Philosophy of Deception. Oxford University Press.
    This chapter introduces many of the themes that are developed in more detail in later contributions: the notion that deception and self-deception are essential to self-maintenance; the suspicion that philosophers place too high a price on the truth, and naively fail to recognize the importance of false beliefs and even lies for human flourishing; the complex nature of both deception and self-deception, and their importance to communication; the observation that lies and self-deceptions are crucial to social interaction; the difficulties of (...)
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  10. added 2020-04-20
    Philosophy as Fiction: Self, Deception, and Knowledge in Proust.Joshua Landy - 2004 - Oxford University Press.
    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 (...)
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  11. added 2020-04-20
    "Les Moi En Moi": The Proustian Self in Philosophical Perspective.Joshua Landy - 2001 - New Literary History 1 ( 32):91-132.
    This essay discusses Proust’s theory of selfhood. Throughout the novel, it argues, Proust’s protagonist struggles with the problem of finding or constructing a self that is both unique and enduring, in the face not only of change across time but also of serious division at any given moment, as the various faculties vie for control. Involuntary memory offers a partial solution, by revealing the existence within us of an aspect that is both individuating and stable—namely, our perspective. Our perspective, however, (...)
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  12. added 2020-04-18
    Mental Calisthenics and Self-Reflexive Fiction.Joshua Landy - 2015 - In The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Approaches to Literature. New York, NY, USA: pp. 559-80.
    Drawing on what we know about priming effects, informational encapsulation, lucid dreaming, imaginative practice, and the “mirror box” illusion, this article argues that self-reflexive fictions may enhance our capacity for simultaneous belief and disbelief, a capacity of surprising importance for human flourishing.
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  13. added 2020-04-18
    Nietzsche, Proust, and Will-to-Ignorance.Joshua Landy - 2002 - Philosophy and Literature 26 (1):1-23.
    “The will to truth,” says Nietzsche, “is merely a form of the will to illusion”; it’s not the opposite of “the will to ignorance, to the uncertain, to the untrue,” but instead “its refinement.” What can this mean? How could a quest for knowledge ever serve a desire to remain in the dark? I answer this question by means of an example in Proust, whose protagonist expends huge quantities of energy apparently trying to find out whether his love partner is (...)
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  14. added 2020-03-21
    The Role of Pretense in the Process of Self-Deception.Xintong Wei - 2020 - Philosophical Explorations 23 (1):1-14.
    Gendler [2007. “Self-deception as Pretense.” Philosophical Perspectives 21 : 231–258] offers an account of self-deception in terms of imaginative pretense, according to which the self-deceptive...
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  15. added 2019-11-23
    Self-Deception, by Eric Funkhouser (Routledge, 2019). [REVIEW]Kevin Lynch - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (1):147-151.
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  16. added 2019-10-20
    L’évaluation de l’auto duperie : Butler, Clifford et la philosophie contemporaine.Anne Meylan - 2018 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 143:357-370.
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  17. added 2019-10-11
    Self-Knowledge and Self-Deception.Hugo Strandberg - 2015 - Palgrave Macmillan.
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  18. added 2019-10-10
    Self-Deception and Selectivity.Alfred R. Mele - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-15.
    This article explores the alleged “selectivity problem” for Alfred Mele’s deflationary position on self-deception, a problem that can allegedly be solved only by appealing to intentions to bring it about that one acquires certain beliefs, or to make it easier for oneself to acquire certain beliefs, or to deceive oneself into believing that p. This article argues for the following thesis: the selectivity problem does not undermine this deflationary position on self-deception, and anyone who takes it to be a problem (...)
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  19. added 2019-10-09
    Literal Self-Deception.Maiya Jordan - 2020 - Analysis 80 (2):248-256.
    It is widely assumed that a literal understanding of someone’s self-deception that p yields the following contradiction. Qua self-deceiver, she does not believe that p, yet – qua self-deceived – she does believe that p. I argue that this assumption is ill-founded. Literalism about self-deception – the view that self-deceivers literally self-deceive – is not committed to this contradiction. On the contrary, properly understood, literalism excludes it.
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  20. added 2019-09-11
    Self-Deception as Omission.Quinn Hiroshi Gibson - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology:1-22.
    In this paper I argue against three leading accounts of self-deception in the philosophical literature and propose a heretofore overlooked route to self-deception. The central problem with extant accounts of self-deception is that they are unable to balance two crucial desiderata: (1) to make the dynamics of self-deception (e.g., the formation of self-deceptive beliefs) psychologically plausible and (2) to capture self-deception as an intentional phenomenon for which the self-deceiver is responsible. I argue that the three leading views all fail on (...)
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  21. added 2019-09-11
    Self-Deception in and Out of Illness: Are Some Subjects Responsible for Their Delusions?Quinn Hiroshi Gibson - 2017 - Palgrave Communications 15 (3):1-12.
    This paper raises a slightly uncomfortable question: are some delusional subjects responsible for their delusions? This question is uncomfortable because we typically think that the answer is pretty clearly just ‘no’. However, we also accept that self-deception is paradigmatically intentional behavior for which the self-deceiver is prima facie blameworthy. Thus, if there is overlap between self-deception and delusion, this will put pressure on our initial answer. This paper argues that there is indeed such overlap by offering a novel philosophical account (...)
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  22. added 2019-08-01
    The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life.Robert Trivers - 2011 - Basic Books.
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  23. added 2019-07-31
    Self-Deception.Eric Funkhouser - 2019 - Routledge.
    Self-deception poses longstanding and fascinating paradoxes. Philosophers have questioned whether, and how, self-deception is even possible; evolutionary theorists have debated whether it is adaptive. For Sigmund Freud self-deception was a fundamental key to understanding the unconscious, and from The Bible to The Great Gatsby literature abounds with characters renowned for their self-deception. But what exactly is self-deception? Why is it so puzzling? How is it performed? And is it harmful? ...
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  24. added 2019-06-30
    Review of Papish, Laura. Kant on Evil, Self-Deception and Moral Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. 280. $74.13 (Cloth). [REVIEW]Samuel J. M. Kahn - forthcoming - Ethics.
  25. added 2019-06-06
    Self-Deception Unmasked. [REVIEW]Eldon Soifer - 2003 - Dialogue 42 (4):824-824.
    This book builds on Mele’s many earlier publications dealing with self-deception, but is more “systematic” and defends a “more comprehensive” position. It is well written, including many lively examples. The book also draws on the relevant psychological literature in a way that could serve as a model of how philosophy can make use of empirical research.
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  26. added 2019-06-06
    Review of Self-Deception Unmasked. [REVIEW]Dion Scott-Kakures - 2002 - Mind 111 (443):696-701.
  27. added 2019-06-06
    Davidson, Irrationality, and Ethics.Basil Smith - 2001 - Philosophy Today 45 (3):242-253.
    In this paper I outline Donald Davidson’s account of two forms of irrationality, akrasia and self-deception, and relate this account to ethical action and belief. His view of irrationality is generally a Freudian one, to the effect that agents must compartmentalize both offending particular mental contents, and governing second order principles. Davidson also hints that his account of akrasia and self-deception might show certain normative and meta-ethical theories to be irrational, insofar as they too engender irrationality. I explore these hints, (...)
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  28. added 2019-06-06
    Irrationality: An Essay on `Akrasia', Self-Deception, and Self-Control.Alfred R. Mele - 1987 - Oxford University Press.
    Although much human action serves as proof that irrational behaviour is remarkably common, certain forms of irrationalityDSmost incontinent action and self-deceptionDSpose such difficult problems that philosophers have rejected them as logically or psychologically impossible. Here, Alfred Mele shows that incontinent action and self-deception are indeed possible.
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  29. added 2019-06-06
    Motivated Irrationality. [REVIEW]Eric Freedman - 1986 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 7 (1).
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  30. added 2019-06-05
    Self-Deception and Agential Authority. Constitutivist Account.Carla Bagnoli - 2012 - Humana Mente 5 (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 (...)
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  31. added 2019-06-05
    What’s So Great About Reality?Julie Kirsch - 2005 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 35 (3):407-427.
    Life is so wretched that it would be impossible to endure were it not for the luminous beams of illusion that guide us through its darkest moments. Many argue, perhaps not to this degree, that were it not for some modest illusions about the world and ourselves we would experience a serious decline in quality of life. On those not-so-good days, this claim strikes me as irresistible. How would I endure life and maintain my sanity if I had to embrace (...)
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  32. added 2019-05-20
    Self-Deception: New Angles: Introduction.Anne Meylan - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):4-10.
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  33. added 2019-05-20
    Self-Deceptive Resistance to Self-Knowledge.Graham Hubbs - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):25-47.
    Graham Hubbs | : Philosophical accounts of self-deception have tended to focus on what is necessary for one to be in a state of self-deception or how one might arrive at such a state. Less attention has been paid to explaining why, so often, self-deceived individuals resist the proper explanation of their condition. This resistance may not be necessary for self-deception, but it is common enough to be a proper explanandum of any adequate account of the phenomenon. The goals of (...)
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  34. added 2019-05-20
    How to Tragically Deceive Yourself.Jakob Ohlhorst - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):48-69.
    Jakob Ohlhorst | : This paper introduces the concept of tragic self-deception. Taking the basic notion that self-deception is motivated belief against better evidence, I argue that there are extreme cases of self-deception even when the contrary evidence is compelling. These I call cases of tragic self-deception. Such strong evidence could be argued to exclude the possibility of self-deception; it would be a delusion instead. To sidestep this conclusion, I introduce the Wittgensteinian concept of certainties or hinges: acceptances that are (...)
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  35. added 2019-05-20
    Costly False Beliefs: What Self-Deception and Pragmatic Encroachment Can Tell Us About the Rationality of Beliefs.Melanie Sarzano - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):95-118.
    Melanie Sarzano | : In this paper, I compare cases of self-deception and cases of pragmatic encroachment and argue that confronting these cases generates a dilemma about rationality. This dilemma turns on the idea that subjects are motivated to avoid costly false beliefs, and that both cases of self-deception and cases of pragmatic encroachment are caused by an interest to avoid forming costly false beliefs. Even though both types of cases can be explained by the same belief-formation mechanism, only self-deceptive (...)
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  36. added 2019-05-20
    Liberalizing Self-Deception: Replacing Paradigmatic-State Accounts of Self-Deception with a Dynamic View of the Self-Deceptive Process.Patrizia Pedrini - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):11-24.
    Patrizia Pedrini | : In this paper, I argue that paradigmatic-state accounts of self-deception suffer from a problem of restrictedness that does not do justice to the complexities of the phenomenon. In particular, I argue that the very search for a paradigmatic state of self-deception greatly overlooks the dynamic dimension of the self-deceptive process, which allows the inclusion of more mental states than paradigmatic-state accounts consider. I will discuss the inadequacy of any such accounts, and I will argue that we (...)
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  37. added 2019-05-20
    Responsibility for Self-Deception.Marie van Loon - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):119-134.
    Marie van Loon | : In this paper, I argue that Alfred Mele’s conception of self-deception is such that it always fulfils the reasons-responsiveness condition for doxastic responsibility. This is because self-deceptive mechanisms of belief formation are such that the kind of beliefs they bring about are the kind of beliefs that fulfil the criteria for doxastic responsibility from epistemic reasons responsiveness. I explain why in this paper. Mele describes the relation of the subject to the evidence as a biased (...)
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  38. added 2019-05-18
    What Does Emotion Teach Us About Self-Deception? Affective Neuroscience in Support of Non-Intentionalism.Federico Lauria & Delphine Preissmann - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):70-94.
    Intuitively, affect plays an indispensable role in self-deception’s dynamic. Call this view “affectivism.” Investigating affectivism matters, as affectivists argue that this conception favours the non-intentionalist approach to self-deception and offers a unified account of straight and twisted self-deception. However, this line of argument has not been scrutinized in detail, and there are reasons to doubt it. Does affectivism fulfill its promises of non-intentionalism and unity? We argue that it does, as long as affect’s role in self-deception lies in affective filters—that (...)
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  39. added 2019-05-06
    Secondary Self‐Deception.Maiya Jordan - 2019 - Ratio 32 (2):122-130.
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  40. added 2019-04-17
    Homosexual, Masochistic Transvestite: How I Eventually Overcame Self-Deception and Became Myself.Tony Summer - 2019 - Charleston, SC: Independent Publisher.
    This book is the story of my self-deception about my “deviant” sexuality and my protracted and painful progress toward self-understanding and self-acceptance. Unavoidably, the book involves explicit descriptions of a wide range of activities often regarded as sexually deviant. It is not intended as pornographic; though some people may use it that way. It describes how I deceived myself about my sexuality as a consequence of trying to conform to the norms of my inherited culture. I hope that it will (...)
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  41. added 2019-02-04
    Realism, Self-Deception and the Logical Paradox of Repression.Simon Boag - 2007 - Theory and Psychology 17 (3):421-447.
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  42. added 2018-12-10
    Slave Revolt, Deflated Self-Deception.Guy Elgat - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (3):524-544.
    The problem of self-deception lies at the heart of Nietzsche's account of the slave revolt in morality in the first essay of On the Genealogy of Morals. The viability of Nietzsche's genealogy of morality is thus crucially dependent on a successful explanation of the self-deception the slaves of the first essay are caught in. But the phenomenon of self-deception is notoriously puzzling. In this paper, after critically examining existing interpretations of the slaves’ self-deception, I provide, by drawing on Alfred Mele's (...)
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  43. added 2018-11-13
    Responsibility for Reason-Giving: The Case of Individual Tainted Reasoning in Systemic Corruption.Emanuela Ceva & Lubomira Radoilska - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (4):789-809.
    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 (...)
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  44. added 2018-11-06
    When Are We Self-Deceived?Alfred R. Mele - 2012 - Humana Mente 5 (20).
    This article’s point of departure is a proto-analysis that I have suggested of entering self-deception in acquiring a belief and an associated set of jointly sufficient conditions for self-deception that I have proposed. Partly with the aim of fleshing out an important member of the proposed set of conditions, I provide a sketch of my view about how self-deception happens. I then return to the proposed set of jointly sufficient conditions and offer a pair of amendments.
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  45. added 2018-11-06
    Emotion and Desire in Self-Deception.Alfred R. Mele - 2003 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 52:163-179.
    According to a traditional view of self-deception, the phenomenon is an intrapersonal analogue of stereotypical interpersonal deception. In the latter case, deceivers intentionally deceive others into believing something, p, and there is a time at which the deceivers believe that p is false while their victims falsely believe that p is true. If self-deception is properly understood on this model, self-deceivers intentionally deceive themselves into believing something, p, and there is a time at which they believe that p is false (...)
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  46. added 2018-10-09
    The Unintended Consequences of Reframing Denial, Unrealistic Optimism, and Self-Deception.Andy Kondrat - 2018 - American Journal of Bioethics 18 (9):36-37.
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  47. added 2018-10-09
    The Influence of Self-Control and Social Status on Self-Deception.Mengmeng Ren, Bowei Zhong, Wei Fan, Hongmei Dai, Bo Yang, Wenjie Zhang, Zongxiang Yin, Juan Liu, Jin Li & Youlong Zhan - 2018 - Frontiers in Psychology 9.
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  48. added 2018-09-28
    Bias.Daniel Moseley - forthcoming - In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Malden, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.
    Following Kahneman and Tversky, I examine the term ‘bias’ as it is used to refer to systematic errors. Given the central role of error in this understanding of bias, it is helpful to consider what it is to err and to distinguish different kinds of error. I identify two main kinds of error, examine ethical issues that pertain to the relation of these types of error, and explain their moral significance. Next, I provide a four-level explanatory framework for understanding biases: (...)
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  49. added 2018-09-26
    Reconciling Practical Knowledge with Self-Deception.Eric Marcus - 2019 - Mind 128 (512):1205-1225.
    Is it impossible for a person to do something intentionally without knowing that she is doing it? The phenomenon of self-deceived agency might seem to show otherwise. Here the agent is not lying, yet disavows a correct description of her intentional action. This disavowal might seem expressive of ignorance. However, I show that the self-deceived agent does know what she's doing. I argue that we should understand the factors that explain self-deception as masking rather than negating the practical knowledge characteristic (...)
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  50. added 2018-09-22
    Sich in die eigene Tasche lügen? Selbsttäuschung als irrationales Projekt.Amber Griffioen - 2017 - PHILOKLES: Zeitschrift Für Populäre Philosophie 21:4-23.
    This article for the PHILOKLES Journal for Popular Philosophy surveys a few common theoretical approaches to the phenomenon of self-deception before putting forward a thus far relatively unexplored intentionalist option, namely what the author calls the "project model of self-deception". On this model, self-deception is understood as a dynamic, diachronic activity, aimed at the preservation of a certain self-image, to which an agent is implicitly committed. The author shows how this model can make subjects responsible for their self-deceptions without running (...)
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1 — 50 / 369