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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. Self-Deception and Kant's Moral Philosophy.Ryan Preston-Roedder - manuscript
  2. Self-Discovery, Criticism and Self-Deception.Tony Summer - manuscript
    Poor self-knowledge brought about my descent into depression, anxiety and uncontrollable bruxism. I wrote my life story as an attempt to discover who I am so that I could overcome my trauma. The attempt failed, partly due to self-deception and partly because there is more to discovering oneself than analysing critically how one has lived so far. I eventually discovered who I am by adopting a critical attitude and the method of conjecture and refutation. A person can best discover who (...)
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  3. Instantaneous Self-Deception.Maiya Jordan - forthcoming - Tandf: Inquiry:1-26.
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  4. On the Function of Self‐Deception.Vladimir Krstić - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
    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 (...)
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  5. Being Self-Deceived About One’s Own Mental State.Kevin Lynch - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly.
    A familiar puzzle about self-deception concerns how self-deception is possible in light of the paradoxes generated by a plausible way of defining it. A less familiar puzzle concerns how a certain type of self-deception—being self-deceived about one's own intentional mental state—is possible in light of a plausible way of understanding the nature of self-knowledge. According to this understanding, we ordinarily do not infer our mental states from evidence, but then it's puzzling how this sort of self-deception could occur given that (...)
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  6. Self-Deception as a Moral Failure.Jordan MacKenzie - forthcoming - The Philosophical Quarterly.
    In this paper, I defend the view that self-deception is a moral failure. Instead of saying that self-deception is bad because it undermines our moral character or leads to morally deleterious consequences, as has been argued by Butler, Kant, Smith, and others, I argue the distinctive badness of self-deception lies in the tragic relationship that it bears to our own values. On the one hand, self-deception is motivated by what we value. On the other hand, it prevents us from valuing (...)
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  7. 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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  8. Self-Deception About Truthfulness.Matt Sleat - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
    European Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  9. Self-Deception, Emotions, and Imagination in Nietzsche.Emma Syea - forthcoming - History of Philosophy Quarterly.
    Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morality includes several cases of agents who are, prima facie, self-deceived. Recent work has linked these cases to deflationary accounts on the one hand and intentionalist Sartrean accounts on the other. But neither is fully satisfactory. I suggest a new account that gives a central role to focused daydreaming and imagination, especially as related to affective content that threatens to destabilize self-deception. This approach, not neatly categorizable, builds upon both deflationary and intentionalist accounts, emphasizing links (...)
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  10. Imposter Syndrome and Self-Deception.Stephen Gadsby - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-12.
    Many intelligent, capable, and successful individuals believe that their success is due to luck and fear that they will someday be exposed as imposters. A puzzling feature of this phenomenon, commonly referred to as imposter syndrome, is that these same individuals treat evidence in ways that maintain their false beliefs and debilitating fears: they ignore and misattribute evidence of their own abilities, while readily accepting evidence in favour of their inadequacy. I propose a novel account of imposter syndrome as an (...)
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  11. Self‐Deception and Pragmatic Encroachment: A Dilemma for Epistemic Rationality.Jie Gao - 2021 - Ratio 34 (1):20-32.
    Self-deception is typically considered epistemically irrational, for it involves holding certain doxastic attitudes against strong counter-evidence. Pragmatic encroachment about epistemic rationality says that whether it is epistemically rational to believe, withhold belief or disbelieve something can depend on perceived practical factors of one’s situation. In this paper I argue that some cases of self-deception satisfy what pragmatic encroachment considers sufficient conditions for epistemic rationality. As a result, we face the following dilemma: either we revise the received view about self-deception or (...)
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  12. Can Wittgenstein’s Philosophy Account for Uncertainty in Introspection?Pablo Hubacher Haerle - 2021 - Wittgenstein-Studien 12 (1):145-163.
    What happens when we are uncertain about what we want, feel or whish for? How should we understand uncertainty in introspection? This paper reconstructs and critically assess two answers to this question frequently found in the secondary literature on Wittgenstein: indecision and self-deception. Such approaches seek to explain uncertainty in introspection in a way which is completely distinct from uncertainty about the ‘outer world’. I argue that in doing so these readings fail to account for the substantial role the intellect (...)
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  13. Laura Papish, Kant on Evil, Self-Deception, and Moral Reform. [REVIEW]Samuel Kahn - 2021 - Ethics 132 (1):266-269.
    Laura Papish’s Kant on Evil, Self-Deception, and Moral Reform is an ambitious attempt to breath new life into old debates and a welcome contribution to a recent renaissance of interest in Kant’s theory of evil. ​The book has eight chapters, and these chapters fall into three main divisions. Chapters 1 and 2 focus on the psychology of nonmoral and immoral action. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 focus on self-deception, evil, and dissimulation. And chapters 6, 7, and 8 focus on self-cognition, (...)
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  14. On Self-Deception: From the Perspective of Zhu Xi’s Moral Psychology.Kaili Wang - 2021 - Asian Philosophy 31 (4):414-429.
    ABSTRACT In order to construct a satisfactory theory of cheng-yi 誠意, Zhu Xi 朱熹 develops an account of how self-deception is possible—a profound problem that has puzzled many philosophers. In Zhu’s opinion, zhi 知 can be divided into two categories: a priori knowing and empirical knowing. The further division of empirical knowing defines three sorts of self-deception: the self-deception caused by one’s ignorance, the self-deception caused by one’s superficial knowing, and the self-deception that may occur when one acquires genuine knowledge. (...)
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  15. From Political Self-Deception to Self-Deception in Political Theory.Alice Baderin - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):26-37.
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  16. What is Political About Political Self-Deception?Lior Erez - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):38-47.
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  17. Self-Deception and the Second Factor: How Desire Causes Delusion in Anorexia Nervosa.Stephen Gadsby - 2020 - Erkenntnis 85 (3):609-626.
    Empiricist models explain delusional beliefs by identifying the abnormal experiences which ground them. Recently, this strategy has been adopted to explain the false body size beliefs of anorexia nervosa patients. As such, a number of abnormal experiences of body size which patients suffer from have been identified. These oversized experiences convey false information regarding the patients’ own bodies, indicating that they are larger than reality. However, in addition to these oversized experiences, patients are also exposed to significant evidence suggesting their (...)
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  18. Political Self-Deception Revisited: Reply to Comments.Anna Elisabetta Galeotti - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):56-69.
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  19. Self-Deception as Omission.Quinn Hiroshi Gibson - 2020 - Philosophical Psychology 33 (5):657-678.
    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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  20. 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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  21. Self-deception, intentions and the folk-psychological explanation of action (in Croatian).Marko Jurjako - 2020 - Prolegomena: Časopis Za Filozofiju 19 (1):91-117.
    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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  22. Self-Deception, by Eric Funkhouser (Routledge, 2019). [REVIEW]Kevin Lynch - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (1):147-151.
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  23. Political Self-Deception and Epistemic Vice.Neil C. Manson - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):6-15.
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  24. Self-deception and selectivity.Alfred R. Mele - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2697-2711.
    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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  25. Self-Deception, War, and the Quest for the Appropriate Prophylactic.Shaul Mitelpunkt - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):48-55.
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  26. 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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  27. Truth, Testimony, and Self-Deception.David Zapero - 2020 - Philosophical Explorations 23 (3):281-291.
    The essay explores Richard Moran’s conception of the self-relation that certain social interactions involve. My focus is on the following question: how much room is there for being deceived about h...
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  28. 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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  29. 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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  30. Self-Deception in Belief Acquisition.Mario R. Echano - 2019 - Kritike 13 (2):131-155.
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  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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  32. 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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  33. Secondary Self‐Deception.Maiya Jordan - 2019 - Ratio 32 (2):122-130.
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  34. 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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  35. Ambivalence and Self-Deception: Reframing the Debate.Francesco Poggiani - 2019 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (2):387-407.
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  36. 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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  37. 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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  38. Self-Deception, Self- Knowledge, and Autobiography.Somogy Varga - 2019 - In Christopher Cowley (ed.), The Philosophy of Autobiography. University of Chicago Press. pp. 141-155.
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  39. Self-Deception and Doxastic Voluntarism.Gustavo Fernández Acevedo - 2018 - Estudios de Filosofía (Universidad de Antioquia) 57.
    The doctrine known as “doxastic voluntarism”, that is, the idea according to which we can freely adopt our beliefs, has been considered as untenable by most philosophers. Moreover, it is possible to distinguish two versions of this doctrine. The direct doxastic voluntarism corresponding to the latter description; and the indirect doxastic voluntarism, that sustains a more moderate thesis according to which it would be possible to induce certain beliefs in ourselves in an indirect way through the planned modification of our (...)
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  40. 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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  41. Political Self-Deception.Anna Elisabetta Galeotti - 2018 - Cambridge University Press.
    Self-deception, that is the distortion of reality against the available evidence and according to one's wishes, represents a distinctive component in the wide realm of political deception. It has received relatively little attention but is well worth examining for its explanatory and normative dimensions. In this book Anna Elisabetta Galeotti shows how self-deception can explain political occurrences where public deception intertwines with political failure - from bad decisions based on false beliefs, through the self-serving nature of those beliefs, to the (...)
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  42. 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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  43. 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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  44. 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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  45. 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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  46. Self-Deception: New Angles: Introduction.Anne Meylan - 2018 - Les Ateliers de l'Éthique / the Ethics Forum 13 (2):4-10.
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  47. 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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  48. Kant on Evil, Self-Deception, and Moral Reform.Laura Papish - 2018 - Oxford University Press.
    Throughout his writings, and particularly in Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant alludes to the idea that evil is connected to self-deceit, and while numerous commentators regard this as a highly attractive thesis, none have seriously explored it. Kant on Evil, Self-Deception, and Moral Reform addresses this crucial element of Kant's ethical theory. -/- Working with both Kant's core texts on ethics and materials less often cited within scholarship on Kant's practical philosophy (such as Kant's logic lectures), Papish (...)
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  49. 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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  50. 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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