Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 2, pp 505–523 | Cite as

Willful ignorance and self-deception



Willful ignorance is an important concept in criminal law and jurisprudence, though it has not received much discussion in philosophy. When it is mentioned, however, it is regularly assumed to be a kind of self-deception. In this article I will argue that self-deception and willful ignorance are distinct psychological kinds. First, some examples of willful ignorance are presented and discussed, and an analysis of the phenomenon is developed. Then it is shown that current theories of self-deception give no support to the idea that willful ignorance is a kind of self-deception. Afterwards an independent argument is adduced for excluding willful ignorance from this category. The crucial differences between the two phenomena are explored, as are the reasons why they are so easily conflated.


Willful ignorance Willful blindness Self-deception Deception Culpable ignorance Ignorance 



I thank Maria Baghramian, Chris Cowley, Douglas Husak, and two anonymous referees from this journal for their extremely helpful comments on previous versions of this essay. Much of this work was supported by an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Woosong UniversityDaejeonSouth Korea

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