In this article we argue that self-deception evolved to facilitate interpersonal deception by allowing people to avoid the cues to conscious deception that might reveal deceptive intent. Self-deception has two additional advantages: It eliminates the costly cognitive load that is typically associated with deceiving, and it can minimize retribution if the deception is discovered. Beyond its role in specific acts of deception, self-deceptive self-enhancement also allows people to display more confidence than is warranted, which has a host of (...) social advantages. The question then arises of how the self can be both deceiver and deceived. We propose that this is achieved through dissociations of mental processes, including conscious versus unconscious memories, conscious versus unconscious attitudes, and automatic versus controlled processes. Given the variety of methods for deceiving others, it should come as no surprise that self-deception manifests itself in a number of different psychological processes, and we discuss various types of self-deception. We then discuss the interpersonal versus intrapersonal nature of self-deception before considering the levels of consciousness at which the self can be deceived. Finally, we contrast our evolutionary approach to self-deception with current theories and debates in psychology and consider some of the costs associated with self-deception. (shrink)
Willful ignorance is an important concept in criminal law and jurisprudence, though it has not received much discussion in philosophy. When it is mentioned, however, it is regularly assumed to be a kind of self-deception. In this article I will argue that self-deception and willful ignorance are distinct psychological kinds. First, some examples of willful ignorance are presented and discussed, and an analysis of the phenomenon is developed. Then it is shown that current theories of self-deception give (...) no support to the idea that willful ignorance is a kind of self-deception. Afterwards an independent argument is adduced for excluding willful ignorance from this category. The crucial differences between the two phenomena are explored, as are the reasons why they are so easily conflated. (shrink)
Cases of self-deception are familiar, and often troubling. Although recent philosophical work on self-deception focuses mainly on issues in philosophy of mind and epistemology, self-deception also poses important moral problems, including serious challenges to Kant’s ethics. In this paper, I will discuss a range of cases of self-deception: cases where people’s self-deception disguises their prejudice or their self-interest, cases where it discourages them from resisting injustice or other evils, and cases where it prompts them to (...) act, on others’ behalf, in ways that end up doing more harm than good. I will explain why such cases pose distinctive challenges for Kant’s theory, and I will argue that Kant’s theory can provide a plausible and instructive, but limited, response to these challenges. (shrink)
Although much human action serves as proof that irrational behavior is remarkably common, certain forms of irrationality--most notably, incontinent action and self-deception--pose such difficult theoretical problems that philosophers have rejected them as logically or psychologically impossible. Here, Mele shows that, and how, incontinent action and self-deception are indeed possible. Drawing upon recent experimental work in the psychology of action and inference, he advances naturalized explanations of akratic action and self-deception while resolving the paradoxes around which the philosophical (...) literature revolves. In addition, he defends an account of self-control, argues that "strict" akratic action is an insurmountable obstacle for traditional belief-desire models of action-explanation, and explains how a considerably modified model accommodates action of this sort. (shrink)
Self-deception poses tantalizing conceptual conundrums and provides fertile ground for empirical research. Recent interdisciplinary volumes on the topic feature essays by biologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists (Lockard & Paulhus 1988, Martin 1985). Self-deception's location at the intersection of these disciplines is explained by its significance for questions of abiding interdisciplinary interest. To what extent is our mental life present--or even accessible--to consciousness? How rational are we? How is motivated irrationality to be explained? To what extent are our beliefs (...) subject to our control? What are the determinants of belief, and how does motivation bear upon belief? In what measure are widely shared psychological propensities products of evolution? (shrink)
I argue here that self-deception is not conducive to happiness. There is a long train of thought in social psychology that seems to say that it is, but proper understanding of the data does not yield this conclusion. Illusion must be distinguished from mere imagining. Self-deception must be distinguished from self-inflation bias and from self-fulfilling belief. Once these distinctions are in place, the case for self-deception falls apart. Furthermore, by yielding false beliefs, self-deception undermines desire satisfaction. (...) Finally, I argue for the positive view that *honest imagining* can yield the psychological benefits that others have claimed for self-deception. (shrink)
My central question in this paper is how delusional beliefs are related to self-deception. In section 1, I summarize my position on what self-deception is and how representative instances of it are to be explained. I turn to delusions in section 2, where I focus on the Capgras delusion, delusional jealousy (or the Othello syndrome), and the reverse Othello syndrome.
Stubborn belief, like self-deception, is a species of motivated irrationality. The nature of stubborn belief, however, has not been investigated by philosophers, and it is something that poses a challenge to some prominent accounts of self-deception. In this paper, I argue that the case of stubborn belief constitutes a counterexample to Alfred Mele’s proposed set of sufficient conditions for self-deception, and I attempt to distinguish between the two. The recognition of this phenomenon should force an amendment in (...) this account, and should also make a Mele-style deflationist think more carefully about the kinds of motivational factors operating in self-deception. (shrink)
A prevalent assumption among philosophers who believe that people can intentionally deceive themselves (intentionalists) is that they accomplish this by controlling what evidence they attend to. This article is concerned primarily with the evaluation of this claim, which we may call ‘attentionalism’. According to attentionalism, when one justifiably believes/suspects that not-p but wishes to make oneself believe that p, one may do this by shifting attention away from the considerations supportive of the belief that not-p and onto considerations supportive of (...) the belief that p. The details of this theory are elaborated, its theoretical importance is pointed out, and it is argued that the strategy is supposed to work by leading to the repression of one’s knowledge of the unwelcome considerations. However, I then show that the assumption that this is possible is opposed by the balance of a relevant body of empirical research, namely, the thought-suppression literature, and so intentionalism about self-deception cannot find vindication in the attentional theory. (shrink)
In this entry, I seek to show the interdependence of questions about self-deception in philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics. I taxonomize solutions to the paradoxes of self-deception, present possible psychological mechanisms behind it, and highlight how different approaches to the philosophy of mind and psychology will affect how we answer important ethical questions. Is self-deception conducive to happiness? How does self-deception affect responsibility? Is there something intrinsically wrong with self-deception? The entry, on the one (...) hand, is a tour of the literature; on the other, it is a case for more work that crosses traditional sub-disciplinary boundaries. (shrink)
In the philosophical literature, self-deception is mainly approached through the analysis of paradoxes. Yet, it is agreed that self-deception is motivated by protection from distress. In this paper, we argue, with the help of findings from cognitive neuroscience and psychology, that self-deception is a type of affective coping. First, we criticize the main solutions to the paradoxes of self-deception. We then present a new approach to self-deception. Self-deception, we argue, involves three appraisals of the (...) distressing evidence: (a) appraisal of the strength of evidence as uncertain, (b) low coping potential and (c) negative anticipation along the lines of Damasio’s somatic marker hypothesis. At the same time, desire impacts the treatment of flattering evidence via dopamine. Our main proposal is that self-deception involves emotional mechanisms provoking a preference for immediate reward despite possible long-term negative repercussions. In the last part, we use this emotional model to revisit the philosophical paradoxes. (shrink)
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 self-deceiver's false consciousness, bias, and the irrationality and objectionability of self-deception. She arrives at a non-intentional account of self-deception that is deeper and more complete than alternative non-intentional accounts and avoids the reduction of self-deceptive belief to wishful belief. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In recent years deflationary accounts of self-deception, under the banner of motivationalism, have proven popular. On these views the deception at work is simply a motivated bias. In contrast, we argue for an account of self-deception that involves more robustly deceptive unconscious processes. These processes are strategic, flexible, and demand some retention of the truth. We offer substantial empirical support for unconscious deceptive processes that run counter to certain philosophical and psychological claims that the unconscious is rigid, ballistic, (...) and of limited cognitive sophistication. (shrink)
Here I review Robert Trivers' 2011 book _The Folly of Fools_, in which he advocates the evolutionary theory of deceit and self-deception that he pioneered in his famous preface to Richard Dawkins' _Selfish Gene_. Although the book contains a wealth of interesting discussion on topics ranging from warfare to immunology, I find it lacking on two major fronts. First, it fails to give a proper argument for its central thesis--namely, that self-deception evolved to facilitate deception of others. Second, (...) the book lacks conceptual clarity with respect to the focal term "self-deception.". (shrink)
I raise the question of what cognitive attitude self-deception brings about. That is: what is the product of self-deception? Robert Audi and Georges Rey have argued that self-deception does not bring about belief in the usual sense, but rather “avowal” or “avowed belief.” That means a tendency to affirm verbally (both privately and publicly) that lacks normal belief-like connections to non-verbal actions. I contest their view by discussing cases in which the product of self-deception is implicated (...) in action in a way that exemplifies the motivational role of belief. Furthermore, by applying independent criteria of what it is for a mental state to be a belief, I defend the more intuitive view that being self-deceived that p entails believing that p. Beliefs (i) are the default for action relative to other cognitive attitudes (such as imagining and hypothesis) and (ii) have cognitive governance over the other cognitive attitudes. I explicate these two relations and argue that they obtain for the product of self-deception. (shrink)
Self-deception, intentions, and contradictory beliefs -/- Philosophical accounts of self-deception can be divided into two broadgroups – 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.
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. (shrink)
This paper aims to offer an alternative to the existing philosophical theories of self-deception. It describes and motivates a teleofunctional theory that models self-deception on the subintentional deceptions perpetrated by non-human organisms. Existing theories of self-deception generate paradoxes, are empirically implausible, or fail to account for the distinction between self-deception and other kinds of motivated irrationality. Deception is not a uniquely human phenomenon: biologists have found that many non-human organisms deceive and are deceived. A close analysis (...) of the pollination strategy of the mirror orchid (Ophrys speculum) provides the basis for an analysis of non-human deception as subintentionally purposive. This teleofunctional analysis is then used as the basis for a theory of self-deception that accounts for its normative and purposive features without defaulting to intentionalism. The teleofunctional theory accounts for distinction between self-deception and phenomena such as wishful thinking in an empirically plausible manner. Three objections to the theory are considered and rejected. (shrink)
The ability of leaders to be perceived as trustworthy and to develop authentic and effective relationships is largely a function of their personal identities and their self-awareness in understanding and making accommodations for their weaknesses. The research about self-deception confirms that we often practice denial regarding our identities without being fully aware of the ethical duties that we owe to ourselves and to others. This article offers insights about the nature of identity and selfawareness, specifically examining how self-deception (...) can create barriers to self-awareness within both a personal and a business context. (shrink)
In instances of "twisted" self-deception, people deceive themselves into believing things that they do not want to be true. In this, twisted self-deception differs markedly from the "straight" variety that has dominated the philosophical and psychological literature on self-deception. Drawing partly upon empirical literature, I develop a trio of approaches to explaining twisted self-deception: a motivation-centered approach; an emotion-centered approach; and a hybrid approach featuring both motivation and emotion. My aim is to display our resources for (...) exploring and explaining twisted self-deception and to show that promising approaches are consistent with a plausible position on straight self-deception. (shrink)
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.
The aim of this paper is to provide an account of a certain variety of self-deception based on a model of self-knowledge. According to this model, one thinks that one has a belief on the basis of one’s grounds for that belief. If this model is correct, then our thoughts about which beliefs we have should be in accordance with our grounds for those beliefs. I suggest that the relevant variety of self deception is a failure of self-knowledge wherein (...) the subject violates this epistemic obligation. I argue that construing this type of self-deception as a failure of selfknowledge explains two important aspects of it: The tension that we observe between the subject’s speech and her actions, and our inclination to hold the subject responsible for her condition. I compare this proposal with two other approaches to self-deception in the literature; intentionalism and motivationalism. Intentionalism explains the two aspects of self-deception but it runs into the so called ‘paradoxes’ of self-deception. Motivationalism avoids those paradoxes but it cannot explain the two aspects of self-deception. (shrink)
Cases in which people are self-deceived seem to require that the person hold two contradictory beliefs, something which appears to be impossible or implausible. A phenomenon seen in some brain-damaged patients known as confabulation (roughly, an ongoing tendency to make false utterances without intent to deceive) can shed light on the problem of self-deception. The conflict is not actually between two beliefs, but between two representations, a 'conceptual' one and an 'analog' one. In addition, confabulation yields valuable clues about (...) the structure of normal human knowledge-gathering processes. [The hypothesis defended here is significantly altered and greatly expanded in my book Brain Fiction.]. (shrink)
The traditional conception of self-deception takes it for an intrapersonal form of interpersonal deception. However, since the same subject is at the same time deceiver and deceived, this means attributing the agent a pair of contradictory beliefs. In the course of defending a deflationary conception of self-deception, Mele  has challenged traditionalists to present convincing evidence that there are cases of self-deception in which what he calls the dual belief-requirement is satisfied. Levy  has responded to this (...) challenge affirming that there is at least one real cases of self-deception that meets this requirement, namely, that of anosognosia. In this family of conditions, the patient apparently believes that there is nothing wrong with her while, at the same time, providing behavioral cues that indicate that the patient is somehow aware of his disease. If Levy is right, then traditionalism about self-deception could be vindicated, after having been widely abandoned due to its need to postulate exotic mental processes in order to make sense of the attribution of contradictory beliefs. In this paper, I assess whether Levy’s response to Mele’s challenge is successful by analyzing his interpretation of the empirical evidence to which he appeals. Finally, I attack the cogency of the underlying commitments about the nature of folk psychology to which one is required to defer in order to draw from conflicting evidence the attribution of contradictory beliefs. (shrink)
This paper proposes that self-deception results from the emotional coherence of beliefs with subjective goals. We apply the HOTCO computational model of emotional coherence to simulate a rich case of self-deception from Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.We argue that this model is more psychologically realistic than other available accounts of self-deception, and discuss related issues such as wishful thinking, intention, and the division of the self.
I characterize a notion of internal irrationality which is central to hard cases of self-deception. I argue that if we aim to locate such internal irrationality in the _process of self-deception, we must fail. The process of self-deception, I claim, is a wholly arational affair. If we are to make a place for internal irrationality we must turn our attention to the _state of self-deception. I go on to argue that we are able to offer an (...) account of this peculiar form of irrationality only if we recognize the role the self-deceiver's own efforts at self-explanation play in the generation of internal irrationality. (shrink)
The self-deceived are usually held to be moral responsible for their state. I argue that this attribution of responsibility makes sense only against the background of the traditional conception of self-deception, a conception that is now widely rejected. In its place, a new conception of self-deception has been articulated, which requires neither intentional action by self-deceived agents, nor that they possess contradictory beliefs. This new conception has neither need nor place for attributions of moral responsibility to the self-deceived (...) in paradigmatic cases. Accordingly, we should take the final step toward abandoning the traditional conception, and drop the automatic attribution of responsibility. Self-deception is simply a kind of mistake, and has no more necessary connection to culpability than have other intellectual errors. (shrink)
A distinction can be made between those who think that self-deception is frequently intentional and those who don’t. I argue that the idea that self-deception has to be intentional can be partly traced to a particular invalid method for analyzing reflexive expressions of the form ‘Ving oneself’ (where V stands for a verb). However, I take the question of whether intentional self-deception is possible to be intrinsically interesting, and investigate the prospects for such an alleged possibility. Various (...) potential strategies of intentional self-deception are examined in relation to Alfred Mele’s suggestion that doing something intentionally implies doing it knowingly. It is suggested that the best prospects for an intentionalist theory of self-deception lie with a strategy involving the control of attention. (shrink)
In this article I discuss and evaluate the selectivity problem as a problem put forward by Bermúdez (1997, 2000) against anti-intentionalist accounts of self-deception. I argue that the selectivity problem can be raised even against intentionalist accounts, which reveals the too demanding constraint that the problem puts on the adequacy of a psychological explanation of action. Finally I try to accommodate the intuitions that support the cogency of the selectivity problem using the resources from the framework provided by an (...) anti-intentionalist account of self-deception. (shrink)
This paper argues that self-deception cannot be explained without employing a depth-psychological ("psychodynamic") notion of the unconscious, and therefore that mainstream academic psychology must make space for such approaches. The paper begins by explicating the notion of a dynamic unconscious. Then a brief account is given of the "paradoxes" of self-deception. It is shown that a depth-psychological self of parts and subceptive agency removes any such paradoxes. Next, several competing accounts of self-deception are considered: an attentional account, (...) a constructivist account, and a neo-Sartrean account. Such accounts are shown to face a general dilemma: either they are able only to explain unmotivated errors of self-perception--in which case they are inadequate for their intended purpose--or they are able to explain motivated self-deception, but do so only by being instantiation mechanisms for depth-psychological processes. The major challenge to this argument comes from the claim that self-deception has a "logic" different to other-deception--the position of Alfred Mele. In an extended discussion it is shown that any such account is explanatorily adequate only for some cases of self-deception--not by any means all. Concluding remarks leave open to further empirical work the scope and importance of depth-psychological approaches. (shrink)
Self-deception poses serious difficulties for belief attribution because the behavior of the self-deceived is deeply conflicted: some of it supports the attribution of a certain belief, while some of it supports the contrary attribution. Theorists have resorted either to attributing both beliefs to the self-deceived, or to postulating an unconscious belief coupled with another kind of cognitive attitude. On the other hand, deflationary accounts of self- deception have attempted a more parsimonious solution: attributing only one, false belief to the (...) subject. My aim in this paper is to critically examine this strategy and, subsequently, to suggest that its failure gives support to the neglected view that the self-deceived are not accurately describable as believing either of the relevant propositions. (shrink)
I argue that the extant theories of self-deception face a counterexample which shows the essential role of instability in the face of attentive consciousness in characterising self-deception. I argue further that this poses a challenge to the interpretist approach to the mental. I consider two revisions of the interpretist approach which might be thought to deal with this challenge and outline why they are unsuccessful. The discussion reveals a more general difficulty for Interpretism. Principles of reasoning—in particular, the (...) requirement of total evidence—are given a weight in attentive consciousness which does not correspond to our reflective judgement of their weight. Successful interpretation does not involve ascribing beliefs and desires by reference to what a subject ought to believe and desire, contrary to what Interpretists suggest. (shrink)
In spite of the fact that many find Jean-Paul Sartre’s account of la mauvaise foi puzzling, unclear and troublesome, he remains a recurring figure in the debate about self-deception. Indeed, Sartre’s exposition of self-deception is as puzzling as it is original. The primary task of my paper will be to expose why this is the case and to thereby correct a recurrent misunderstanding of Sartre’s theory of consciousness. In the end, will we see that Sartre offers the following (...) theory: self-deception is to be accounted for by assuming that there are intrinsically self-deceptive epistemic states. The latter are self-deceptive in so far as they claim certainty while nevertheless being accompanied by an inbuilt and incorruptible awareness of being unwarranted. For Sartre, developing this rather peculiar account of self-deception, is, as we will see, not primarily intended as an end in itself. Rather, Sartre thereby hopes to illuminate the nature of self-awareness as epistemically super-secure, pre-reflexive, non-positional and “embryonic” knowledge that does not necessitate but can still ground epistemically super-secure reflexive knowledge, and that can replace Freud’s notion of unconscious knowledge. As an account of self-deception, Sartre’s suggestion, however, comes at a high price. Apart from the presuppositions Sartre makes in the theory of consciousness and intentionality, his account is deflationist with regard to local cases of self-deception. (shrink)
Self-Deception, Properly understood, Is not paradoxical. Although self-Deception involves motivated false belief, It is not properly modeled after "intentional" interpersonal deception. Thus, The major source of paradox is dissolved. Moreover, Even intentional self-Deception need not be paradoxical and there is good reason to believe that a kind of self-Deception which "would" be paradoxical never occurs. Finally, In cases of self-Deception, As in instances of akratic action, There is scope for blame.
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 while also believing that p is true. (shrink)
In Part I, I consider the normal contexts of assertions of belief and declarations of intentions, arguing that many action-guiding beliefs are accepted uncritically and even pre-consciously. I analyze the function of avowals as expressions of attempts at self-transformation. It is because assertions of beliefs are used to perform a wide range of speech acts besides that of speaking the truth, and because there is a large area of indeterminacy in such assertions, that self-deception is possible. In Part II, (...) I analyze the conditions of self-deception, and discuss the grounds on which it is regarded as irrational, even when particular instances may be beneficial. I consider some of the classical analyses of the motives for self-deception, and attempt to give an account of the occasions in which it is likely to occur. In the final section, I discuss the complex organization of the self that is presupposed by the phenomena of self-deception. (shrink)
One of the most common views about self-deception ascribes contradictory beliefs to the self-deceiver. In this paper it is argued that this view (the contradiction strategy) is inconsistent with plausible common-sense principles of belief attribution. Other dubious assumptions made by contradiction strategists are also examined. It is concluded that the contradiction strategy is an inadequate account of self-deception. Two other well-known views — those of Robert Audi and Alfred Mele — are investigated and found wanting. A new theory (...) of self-deception relying on an extension of Mark Johnston's subintentional mental tropisms is proposed and defended. (shrink)
I assess Tamar Gendler's (2007) account of self-deception according to which its characteristic state is not belief, but imaginative pretense. After giving an overview of the literature and presenting the conceptual puzzles engendered by the notion of self-deception, I introduce Gendler's account, which emerges as a rival to practically all extant accounts of self-deception. I object to it by first arguing that her argument for abandoning belief as the characteristic state of self-deception conflates the state of (...) belief and the process of belief-formation when interpreting David Velleman's (2000) thesis that belief is an essentially truth-directed attitude. I then call attention to the fact that Velleman's argument for the identity of motivational role between belief and imagining, on which Gendler's argument for self-deception as pretense depends, conflates two senses of 'motivational role'-a stronger but implausible sense and a weaker but explanatorily irrelevant sense. Finally, I introduce Neil Van Leeuwen's (2009) argument to the effect that belief is the practical ground of all non-belief cognitive attitudes in circumstances wherein the latter prompt action. I apply this framework to Gendler's account to ultimately show that imaginative pretense fails to explain the existence of voluntary actions which result from self-deception. (shrink)
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 authority she has on her mental life. To this extent, self-deception is akin to alienation and estrangement. Its morally disturbing feature is its self-serving partiality. The self-deceptive agent settles on standards of justification that are lower than any rational agent would adopt, and thus loses grip on her agency. To capture the moral dimension of self-deception, I defend a Kantian account of the constraints that bear on self-constitution, and argue that it warrants more discriminating standards of agential autonomy than other contemporary minimalist views of self-government. (shrink)
According to some, contemporary social psychology is aptly described as a study in moral hypocrisy. In this paper we argue that this is unfortunate when understood as establishing that we only care about appearing to act morally, not about true moral action. A philosophically more interesting interpretation of the “moral hypocrisy”-findings understands it to establish that we care so much about morality that it might lead to self-deception about the moral nature of our motives and/or misperceptions regarding what we (...) should or should not do in everyday or experimental situations. In this paper we argue for this claim by elaborating on a fascinating series of experiments by Daniel Batson and his colleagues who have consistently contributed to the moral hypocrisy findings since the late nineties, and showing in what way they contribute to a better understanding of moral agency, rather than undermine the idea that we are moral agents. (shrink)
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 work on self-deception, a deflationary account of the slaves’ self-deception; an account which explains the slaves’ self-deceived predicament but without either the attribution of contradictory mental states or an intention to produce or to facilitate the production of the belief the self-deceived subjects end up holding. In light of my account of self-deception, I interpret Nietzsche's intriguing claim that the slaves’ revaluation of ressentiment amounts to their ‘most mendacious artistic.. (shrink)
Is it possible for me to believe what I know not to be the case? It certainly does not seem possible for me, at the same time, to be aware of the fact that a given proposition is true and yet believe that the proposition is false. Models of self?deception which have the implication that this is possible are usually described as ?paradoxical?. However, many philosophers believe that there are genuine cases of self?deception which non?paradoxical models of self?deception mirror and (...) elucidate. In the present article the author considers what he takes to be the leading contenders among non?paradoxical (or seemingly non?paradoxical) models of self?deception. He concludes from his analysis that it is not clear that any of these models mirror actual cases of self?deception and that it is not even obvious that there are actual cases of self?deception to be mirrored. (shrink)
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 to sketch the common characteristics between self-deception and self-knowledge. The framework of self-emplotment from which self-deception can emerge is also the framework that delivers self-knowledge; to the extent that the activity of self-emplotment is partially constitutive of what it means to possess self-knowledge, the self-deceiver may be closer to a state of self-knowledge than the person who fails to engage in significant introspective narrative. (shrink)
While we may not be able simply to choose what we believe, there is still scope for culpability for what we come to belief. I explore here the distinction between culpable and non-culpable theistic unbelief, investigating the process of self-deception to which we can voluntarily contribute in cases where we do become culpable for failing to believe something.
Do computers have beliefs? I argue that anyone who answers in the affirmative holds a view that is incompatible with what I shall call the commonsense approach to the propositional attitudes. My claims shall be two. First,the commonsense view places important constraints on what can be acknowledged as a case of having a belief. Second, computers – at least those for which having a belief would be conceived as having a sentence in a belief box – fail to satisfy some (...) of these constraints. This second claim can best be brought out in the context of an examination of the idea of computer self-knowledge and self-deception, but the conclusion is perfectly general: the idea that computers are believers, like the idea that computers could have self-knowledge or be self-deceived, is incompatible with the commonsense view. The significance of the argument lies in the choice it forces on us: whether to revise our notion of belief so as to accommodate the claim that computers are believers, or to give up on that claim so as to preserve our pretheoretic notion of the attitudes. We cannot have it both ways. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that genuine responsibility and ethical self-understanding are possible without narrative—or, at least, that narrative is not always sufficient. In §2, I introduce and clarify a distinction between our ontological subjectivity and everyday practical identity—one made famous by Heidegger and Sartre. On the basis of this distinction, in §3 I argue that narrative is unable to ground ethical choice and decision. For, although acting in light of practical identities is something we do, it cannot wholly capture (...) what it is to be who we are. Irrespective of whatever worldly projects and identities we press into, something about our subjectivity always remains unchanged. Narrative identity, which trades merely on practical identity, thus obscures this ontological dimension of life wherein human action, decision, choice, and responsibility truly originate. By way of conclusion, in §4, I briefly examine depictions of the narrative life found within the authorships of Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, and Voltaire, illustrating how self-narrative at times invites self-deception and annuls responsibility. A life of genuine responsibility demands more than what the most candid and best intentioned of self-narratives can supply us. Living the good life, I shall intimate, is thus not something that involves mere narrative. It depends, rather, on inwardness. (shrink)