Belief, Deception, and Self-Deception

Dissertation, University of Minnesota (1990)

Many philosophers in the last 40 years have argued that self-deception is a phenomenon that cannot occur. My project is not to prove that there are occurrences of self-deception , but instead to give an analysis of the concepts central to understanding self-deception--deception, lying, belief, self, rationality--which will open up logical space for the concept of self-deception. ;I argue that what has been called the static paradox of self-deception cannot be distinguished from the so-called dynamic paradox of self-deception and, further, that the latter paradox can be dissolved by a strict modeling of self-deception on certain unusual cases of ordinary deception. The main strategy for explaining how self-deception occurs consists in the attempt to assimilate self-deception to the phenomenon of akrasia, while at the same time insisting that self-deception must be modeled on ordinary deception. ;In later chapters of the dissertation I take up the topics of: responsibility--arguing that self-deceivers are unambiguously responsible for the actions and attitudes which are the result of self-deception, rationality--examining the challenge to claims of literal self-deception which are presented by principles of charity, and finally, I attempt to make the notion of self-deception precise by distinguishing self-deception from closely related phenomena such as wishful thinking, ordinary deception, and akratic belief
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