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Abstract

It is commonly accepted that people can, and regularly do, deceive themselves. Yet closer examination reveals a set of conceptual puzzles that make self-deception difficult to explain. Applying the conditions for other-deception to self-deception generates what are known as the ‘paradoxes’ of belief and intention. Simply put, the central problem is how it is possible for me to believe one thing, and yet intentionally cause myself to simultaneously believe its contradiction. There are two general approaches taken by philosophers to account for these puzzles about the self-deceptive state and the process of self-deception. ‘Partitioning’ strategies try to resolve the paradoxes by proposing that the mind is divided in some way that allows self-deception to occur. ‘Reformulation’ strategies suggest that the conditions we use to define self-deception should be modified so that the paradoxes do not arise at all. Both approaches are subject to criticism about the consequences of the strategies philosophers use, but recent cross-disciplinary analyses of self-deception may help shed light on the puzzles that underlie this phenomenon.