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Abstract: Two of the most basic questions regarding self-deception remain unsettled: What do self-deceivers want? What do self-deceivers get? I argue that self-deceivers are motivated by a desire to believe. However, in significant contrast with Alfred Mele’s account of self-deception, I argue that self-deceivers do not satisfy this desire. Instead, the end-state of self-deception is a false higher-order belief. This shows all self-deception to be a failure of self-knowledge
Abstract: I propose that paradigmatic cases of self-deception satisfy the following conditions: (a) the person who is self-deceived about not-P pretends (in the sense of makes-believe or imagines or fantasizes) that not-P is the case, often while believing that P is the case and not believing that not-P is the case; (b) the pretense that not-P largely plays the role normally played by belief in terms of (i) introspective vivacity and (ii) motivation of action in a wide range of circumstances. Understanding self-deception in this way is highly natural. And it provides a non- paradoxical characterization of the phenomenon that explains both its distinctive patterns of instability and its ordinary association with irrationality. Why, then, has this diagnosis been overlooked? I suggest that the oversight is due to a failure to recognize the philosophical significance of a crucial fact about the human mind, namely, the degree to which attitudes other than belief often play a central role in our mental and practical lives, both by “influenc[ing our]. . . passions and imagination,” and by “governing. . .our actions.”
Abstract: Do computers have beliefs? I argue that anyone who answers in the affirmative holds a view that is incompatible with what I shall call the commonsense approach to the propositional attitudes. My claims shall be two. First,the commonsense view places important constraints on what can be acknowledged as a case of having a belief. Second, computers – at least those for which having a belief would be conceived as having a sentence in a belief box – fail to satisfy some of these constraints. This second claim can best be brought out in the context of an examination of the idea of computer self-knowledge and self-deception, but the conclusion is perfectly general: the idea that computers are believers, like the idea that computers could have self-knowledge or be self-deceived, is incompatible with the commonsense view. The significance of the argument lies in the choice it forces on us: whether to revise our notion of belief so as to accommodate the claim that computers are believers, or to give up on that claim so as to preserve our pretheoretic notion of the attitudes. We cannot have it both ways
Abstract: One of the most common views about self-deception ascribes contradictory beliefs to the self-deceiver. In this paper it is argued that this view (the contradiction strategy) is inconsistent with plausible common-sense principles of belief attribution. Other dubious assumptions made by contradiction strategists are also examined. It is concluded that the contradiction strategy is an inadequate account of self-deception. Two other well-known views — those of Robert Audi and Alfred Mele — are investigated and found wanting. A new theory of self-deception relying on an extension of Mark Johnston's subintentional mental tropisms is proposed and defended
Abstract: The orthodox answer to my question is this: in a case of self-deception, the self acts to deceive itself. That is, the self is the author of its own deception. I want to explore an opposing idea here: that the self is rather the subject matter of the deception. That is, I want to explore the idea that self-deception is more concerned with the self’s deception about the self, than with the self’s deception by the self. The expression would thus be semantically comparable to expressions like ‘self-knowledge’ (which involves knowledge about the self) rather than to expressions like ‘self-control’ (which involves control by the self).1 On this approach, what goes wrong, when we are self-deceived, is that we lack self-knowledge; or, more accurately, since one can lack knowledge without falling into error, what goes wrong is that we have false beliefs about ourselves. Not any kind of false belief about oneself; I am not self-deceived when I mistake my shoe size. Rather, self-deception requires false beliefs about the kind of subject matter that, were one to get it right, would constitute self-knowledge. It is an interesting fact about current English that, though we talk freely of self-knowledge, we have no common term to designate its absence. Seventeenth century writers talked of self-ignorance; but the term has fallen from use. I suggest that ‘self-deception’ is the nearest we have
Abstract: Theories of self-deception divide into those that hold that the state is characterized by some kind of synchronic tension or conflict between propositional attitudes and those that deny this. Proponents of the latter like Al Mele claim that their theories are more parsimonious, because they do not require us to postulate any psychological mechanisms beyond those which have been independently verified. But if we can show that there are real cases of motivated believing which are characterized by conflicting propositional attitudes, however, the parsimony argument against incongruent mental state accounts is undermined. I argue that anosognosia presents us with a real-life example of motivated belief together with (sub)-doxastic conflict
Abstract: Self-deception poses tantalizing conceptual conundrums and provides fertile ground for empirical research. Recent interdisciplinary volumes on the topic feature essays by biologists, philosophers, psychiatrists, and psychologists (Lockard & Paulhus 1988, Martin 1985). Self-deception's location at the intersection of these disciplines is explained by its significance for questions of abiding interdisciplinary interest. To what extent is our mental life present--or even accessible--to consciousness? How rational are we? How is motivated irrationality to be explained? To what extent are our beliefs subject to our control? What are the determinants of belief, and how does motivation bear upon belief? In what measure are widely shared psychological propensities products of evolution?
In Chapter 4 of his "Self-Deception Unmasked" (SDU), Al Mele considers several (attempted) empirical demonstrations of self-deception. These empirical demonstrations work under the conception of what Mele refers to as the 'dual-belief requirement', in which an agent simultaneously holds a belief p and a belief ~p. Toward the end of this chapter, Mele considers the argument of one biologist and anthropologist, Robert Trivers, who describes what he takes to be an evolutionary explanation for coming to form false beliefs. Mele argues briefly that Trivers's account is no more explanatory than a similar one that does not include the dual-belief requirement. I present a case describing Trivers' analysis, show how Mele might reply to it. After briefly explaining Mele's sufficient conditions for entering self-deception from Chapter 3 of SDU, I'll consider what it means to hold the dual-belief. I'll then consider what I take to be a class of cases of self-deception which rely on genetic determinism, which I take to satisfy the dual-belief condition.
Abstract: This paper proposes that self-deception results from the emotional coherence of beliefs with subjective goals. We apply the HOTCO computational model of emotional coherence to simulate a rich case of self-deception from Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.We argue that this model is more psychologically realistic than other available accounts of self-deception, and discuss related issues such as wishful thinking, intention, and the division of the self
Abstract: This paper claims that the standard characterization of the motivational role of belief should be supplemented. Beliefs do not only, jointly with desires, cause and rationalize actions that will satisfy the desires, if the beliefs are true; beliefs are also the practical ground of other cognitive attitudes, like imagining, which means beliefs determine whether and when one acts with those other attitudes as the cognitive inputs into choices and practical reasoning. In addition to arguing for this thesis, I take issue with Velleman's argument that belief and imagining cannot be distinguished on the basis of motivational role.