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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 2016, 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‐Deception and Moral Interests.David A. Borman - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
    European Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  3. Self-Handicapping and Self-Deception: A Two-Way Street.Eric Funkhouser & Kyle Hallam - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology:1-26.
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  4. Group Lies and the Narrative Constraint.Säde Hormio - forthcoming - Episteme 19 (First View):1-20.
    A group is lying when it makes a statement that it believes to be untrue but wants the addressee(s) to believe. But how can we distinguish statements that the group believes to be untrue from honest group statements based on mistaken beliefs or confusion within the group? I will suggest a narrative constraint for honest group statements, made up of two components. Narrative coherence requires that a new group statement should not conflict with group knowledge on the matter, or beliefs (...)
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  5. Bullshit as a Practical Strategy for Self‐Deceptive Narrators.Leslie A. Howe - forthcoming - Philosophical Forum.
    This paper argues that bullshit is a practical resource for self-deceiving individuals, or those who merely prefer to avoid self-examination, insofar as it is able to provide a mask for poor doxastic hygiene. While self-deception and bullshit are distinct phenomena, and bullshit does not cause self-deception, bullshit disrupts the capacity to interrogate the motivational biasses that fuel deception. The communicative misdirection engaged in by ordinary social bullshitters is applied reflexively by the self-deceiver to distort, evade, and obfuscate the self-deceiver's self-accounting. (...)
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  6. Instantaneous Self-Deception.Maiya Jordan - forthcoming - Tandf: Inquiry:1-26.
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  7. The Pragmatic Hypothesis Testing Theory of Self-Deception and the Belief/Acceptance Distinction.Kevin Lynch - forthcoming - Philosophy.
    According to the pragmatic hypothesis testing theory, how much evidence we require before we believe something varies depending on the expected costs of falsely believing and disbelieving it. This theory has been used in the self-deception debate to explain our tendencies towards self-deceptive belief formation. This article argues that the application of this theory in the self-deception debate has overlooked the distinction between belief and acceptance, and that the theory in all likelihood models acceptance rather than belief, in which case (...)
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  8. 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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  9. Self-Deception in the Predictive Mind: Cognitive Strategies and a Challenge From Motivation.Francesco Marchi & Albert Newen - forthcoming - Philosophical Psychology:1-20.
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  10. 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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  11. Ressentiment and Self-Deception in Early Phenomenology: Voigtländer, Scheler and Reinach.Íngrid Vendrell-Ferran - forthcoming - In Ingrid Vendrell Ferran (ed.), Else Voigtländer: Self, Emotion, and Sociality.
    This chapter explores the early phenomenological accounts of Ressentiment provided by Else Voigtländer, Max Scheler, and Adolf Reinach. In particular, it examines the self-deceptive processes that lead to the “inversion of values” inherent to Ressentiment, i.e., how an object previously felt as valuable is denuded of its worth when the subject realizes that she cannot achieve it. For the comparative analysis of the three accounts, attention is paid to three crucial issues: 1) the origins of Ressentiment (etiology); 2) its place (...)
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  12. Theater of Lies: The Letter to D'Alembert and the Tragedy of Self‐Deception.John Warner - forthcoming - European Journal of Philosophy.
    European Journal of Philosophy, EarlyView.
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  13. Self-Deception and Illusions of Esteem: Contextualizing Du Châtelet’s Challenge.Andreas Blank - 2022 - In Ruth Edith Hagengruber (ed.), Époque Émilienne. Philosophy and Science in the Age of Émilie Du Châtelet (1706–1749). Cham, Switzerland: pp. 391-410.
    This article discusses Du Châtelet’s challenging claim that entertaining illusions, especially illusions of being esteemed by posterity, is conducive to happiness. It does so by taking a contextualizing approach, contrasting her views with the views on illusions and happiness in Julien Offray de La Mettrie and Bernard de Fontenelle. I will argue for three claims: (1) Du Châtelet’s view that illusions are akin to perceptions that are favorable to us problematically generalizes La Mettrie’s insight that some acts of the imagination (...)
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  14. Moral Responsibility for Self-Deluding Beings.David J. Franz - 2022 - Philosophia 50 (4):1791-1807.
    In this article, I argue for four theses. First, libertarian and compatibilist accounts of moral responsibility agree that the capability of practical reason is the central feature of moral responsibility. Second, this viewpoint leads to a reasons-focused account of human behavior. Examples of human action discussed in debates about moral responsibility suggest that typical human actions are driven primarily by the agent’s subjective reasons and are sufficiently transparent for the agent. Third, this conception of self-transparent action is a questionable idealization. (...)
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  15. Imposter Syndrome and Self-Deception.Stephen Gadsby - 2022 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 100 (2):247-261.
    ABSTRACT 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 (...)
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  16. Instantaneous Self-Deception.Maiya Jordan - 2022 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 65 (2):176-201.
    ABSTRACT This paper offers an account of intending to self-deceive which opposes that provided by standard intentionalist accounts of self-deception. According to my account, self-deception is attained instantaneously: to intend to self-deceive that P is thereby to self-deceive that P. Relating this to the concepts of evidence, belief and self-awareness, I develop an account of self-deception which holds that self-deceivers misrepresent themselves as believing what they profess to believe. I argue that my account yields solutions to the central problems of (...)
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  17. Can Predictive Processing Explain Self-Deception?Marko Jurjako - 2022 - Synthese 200 (4):1-20.
    The prediction error minimization framework denotes a family of views that aim at providing a unified theory of perception, cognition, and action. In this paper, I discuss some of the theoretical limitations of PEM. It appears that PEM cannot provide a satisfactory explanation of motivated reasoning, as instantiated in phenomena such as self-deception, because its cognitive ontology does not have a separate category for motivational states such as desires. However, it might be thought that this objection confuses levels of explanation. (...)
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  18. Being Self-Deceived About One’s Own Mental State.Kevin Lynch - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (3):652-672.
    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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  19. Everybody Lies: Deception Levels in Various Domains of Life.Kristina Šekrst - 2022 - Biosemiotics (2).
    The goal of this paper is to establish a hierarchical level of deception which does not apply only to humans and non-human animals, but also to the rest of the living world, including plants. We will follow the hierarchical categorization of deception, set forth by Mitchell (1986), in which the first level of deception starts with mimicry, while the last level of deception includes learning and intentionality, usually attributed to primates. We will show how such a hierarchy can be attributed (...)
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  20. Self‐Deception About Truthfulness.Matt Sleat - 2022 - European Journal of Philosophy 30 (2):693-708.
    European Journal of Philosophy, Volume 30, Issue 2, Page 693-708, June 2022.
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  21. The Social Epistemology of Introspection.Elmar Unnsteinsson - 2022 - Mind and Language:1-18.
    I argue that introspection recruits the same mental mechanism as that which is required for the production of ordinary speech acts. In introspection, in effect, we intentionally tell ourselves that we are in some mental state, aiming thereby to produce belief about that state in ourselves. On one popular view of speech acts, however, this is precisely what speakers do when speaking to others. On this basis, I argue that every bias discovered by social epistemology applies to introspection and other (...)
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  22. 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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  23. 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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  24. 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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  25. 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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  26. On the Function of Self‐Deception.Vladimir Krstić - 2021 - European Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):846-863.
    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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  27. Self-Deceptive Inquiry.Dion Scott-Kakures - 2021 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 45:457-482.
    I develop the claim that paradigmatic cases of self-deceptive inquiry and belief-formation result from cognitive disorientation. In cognitive disorientation, the data, experiences, and practices we make use of in typical inquiry lead us awry in systematic fashion. The self-deceiver encounters a puzzle or a threat to her picture of the world; this doubt or uncertainty gives rise to questions she struggles to settle. Drawing on the theory of cognitive dissonance, I show that while taking herself to be engaged in the (...)
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  28. Rationalizing.Martin Sticker - 2021 - Cambridge University Press.
    Kant was a keen psychological observer and theorist of the forms, mechanisms and sources of self-deception. In this Element, the author discusses the role of rationalizing/Vernünfteln for Kant's moral psychology, normative ethics and philosophical methodology. By drawing on the full breadth of examples of rationalizing Kant discusses, the author shows how rationalizing can extend to general features of morality and corrupt rational agents thoroughly. Furthermore, the author explains the often-overlooked roles common human reason, empirical practical reason and even pure practical (...)
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  29. 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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  30. 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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  31. The Intersections Between Self-Deception and Inconsistency: An Examination of Bad Faith and Cognitive Dissonance.Hannah Bahnmiller - 2020 - Stance 8 (1):71-80.
    The relationship between the concepts of bad faith, coined by Jean-Paul Sartre, and cognitive dissonance, developed by Leon Festinger, is often misunderstood. Frequently, the terms are over-generalized and equivocated as synonymous ideas. This paper attempts to clarify the intricacies of these two concepts, outlining their similarities and differences.
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  32. What is Political About Political Self-Deception?Lior Erez - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):38-47.
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  33. 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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  34. Political Self-Deception Revisited: Reply to Comments.Anna Elisabetta Galeotti - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):56-69.
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  35. 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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  36. 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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  37. 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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  38. Self-Deception, by Eric Funkhouser (Routledge, 2019). [REVIEW]Kevin Lynch - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (1):147-151.
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  39. Political Self-Deception and Epistemic Vice.Neil C. Manson - 2020 - Ethics and Global Politics 13 (4):6-15.
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  40. 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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  41. 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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  42. Self-Deception, Emotions, and Imagination in Nietzsche.Emma Syea - 2020 - History of Philosophy Quarterly 37 (3):241-261.
    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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  43. 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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  44. 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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  45. The Truth About Denial: Bias and Self-Deception in Science, Politics, and Religion.Adrian Bardon - 2019 - New York: 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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  46. 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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  47. Self-Deception in Belief Acquisition.Mario R. Echano - 2019 - Kritike 13 (2):131-155.
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  48. 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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  49. 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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  50. Secondary Self‐Deception.Maiya Jordan - 2019 - Ratio 32 (2):122-130.
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