What is the role of the self in self-deception?


Authors
Richard Holton
Cambridge University
Abstract
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
Keywords Action  Epistemology  Ethics  Self  Self-deception
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DOI 10.1111/j.0066-7372.2003.00021.x
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Self-Deception as Pretense.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2007 - Philosophical Perspectives 21 (1):231 - 258.
Self-Deception and Stubborn Belief.Kevin Lynch - 2013 - Erkenntnis 78 (6):1337-1345.
Self-Deception and Self-Knowledge.Jordi Fernández - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 162 (2):379-400.

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