Zygon 52 (3):880-902 (2017)

Part of the epistemological crisis of the twentieth century was caused by empirically establishing that introspection provides little reliable self-knowledge. While we all have full actual selves to which our self-representations do not do full justice, we focus on the formation and existence of a narrative self, and on problematic reliability. We will explore the cognitive neuroscience behind its limitations, including pathological forms of confabulation, the generation of plausible but insufficiently grounded accounts of our actions, and the normal patterns of narrative creation and checking. The evolutionary logic of self-deception may produce adaptive results, particularly in service of the “commitment strategies” that give our species results otherwise unobtainable. It is largely in our close relationships with other human beings, the relationships so well served by these very strategies, that we may find the powerful counterbalancing feedback which may provide positive change and self-transcendence. Nevertheless, we will also warn about a shadow side for which religion can provide both acknowledgment and hope.
Keywords cognitive neuroscience  confabulation  embodied cognition  epistemology  introspection  narrative  self‐deception  self‐knowledge  self‐representation
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DOI 10.1111/zygo.12349
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