Is self-deception an effective non-cooperative strategy?

Biology and Philosophy 32 (2):221-242 (2017)
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Robert Trivers has proposed perhaps the only serious adaptationist account of self-deception—that the primary function of self-deception is to better deceive others. But this account covers only a subset of cases and needs further refinement. A better evolutionary account of self-deception and cognitive biases more generally will more rigorously recognize the various ways in which false beliefs affect both the self and others. This article offers formulas for determining the optimal doxastic orientation, giving special consideration to conflicted self-deception as an alternative to outright self-delusion. A novel taxonomy of self-deception, as it relates to the beliefs held by others, is also presented. While Trivers makes a plausible case for the adaptive value of certain cognitive biases, a more fragmented and nuanced account of the social forces impacting the evolution of self-deception is needed.



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Eric Funkhouser
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Citations of this work

Self-deception.Ian Deweese-Boyd - 2023 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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On the function of self‐deception.Vladimir Krstić - 2021 - European Journal of Philosophy 29 (4):846-863.
Reply to Doody.Eric Funkhouser & David Barrett - 2017 - Philosophical Psychology 30 (5):677-681.

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References found in this work

Alief and Belief.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):634-663.
Self-Deception Unmasked.Alfred R. Mele - 2001 - Princeton University Press.
Alief and belief.Tamar Gendler - 2018 - In Jeremy Fantl, Matthew McGrath & Ernest Sosa (eds.), Contemporary epistemology: an anthology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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