Philosophical Studies

, Volume 162, Issue 2, pp 379–400 | Cite as

Self-deception and self-knowledge

  • Jordi FernándezEmail author


The aim of this paper is to provide an account of a certain variety of self-deception based on a model of self-knowledge. According to this model, one thinks that one has a belief on the basis of one’s grounds for that belief. If this model is correct, then our thoughts about which beliefs we have should be in accordance with our grounds for those beliefs. I suggest that the relevant variety of self-deception is a failure of self-knowledge wherein the subject violates this epistemic obligation. I argue that construing this type of self-deception as a failure of self-knowledge explains two important aspects of it: The tension that we observe between the subject’s speech and her actions, and our inclination to hold the subject responsible for her condition. I compare this proposal with two other approaches to self-deception in the literature; intentionalism and motivationalism. Intentionalism explains the two aspects of self-deception but it runs into the so-called ‘paradoxes’ of self-deception. Motivationalism avoids those paradoxes but it cannot explain the two aspects of self-deception.


Self-deception Self-knowledge 



For comments on earlier drafts, I am very grateful to Greg O’Hair, David Pineda, Grant Stephens and an anonymous referee for this journal. This research was funded by two grants from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology for projects FFI2009-11347 and FFI2010-15717, as well as a grant for project CSD2009-0056 under the Consolider Ingenio scheme.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Adelaide, School of HumanitiesAdelaideAustralia

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