On the function of self‐deception

European Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):846-863 (2021)
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Self-deception makes best sense as a self-defensive mechanism by which the self protects itself from painful reality. Hence, we typically imagine self-deceivers as people who cause themselves to believe as true what they want to be true. Some self-deceivers, however, end up believing what they do not want to be true. Their behaviour can be explained on the hypothesis that the function of this behaviour is protecting the agent's perceived focal benefit at the cost of inflicting short-term harm, which is a basis for a unified account of the phenomenon. In this paper, I argue that this view is narrow. Cases of altruistic, benevolent, and even self-punishing self-deception also exist. There, the function is not the self-deceiver's benefit. In fact, self-deception may have no function at all. Therefore, I put forward a novel account that analyses the function of self-deception on a case-by-case basis.



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Vladimir Krstic
United Arab Emirates University

Citations of this work

A Functional Analysis of Human Deception.Vladimir Krstić - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association:1-19.

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References found in this work

Self-Deception Unmasked.Alfred R. Mele - 2001 - Princeton University Press.
The evolution of misbelief.Ryan McKay & Daniel Dennett - 2009 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (6):493–510; discussion 510–61.
Seeing Through Self-Deception.Annette Barnes - 1997 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Content in Simple Signalling Systems.Nicholas Shea, Peter Godfrey-Smith & Rosa Cao - 2018 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 69 (4):1009-1035.

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