Self-Deception: Theoretical Puzzles and Moral Implications

  • Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 199)


Analysing the logical structure of self-deception requires to mark the difference between normal, that is interpersonal deception and self-deception. Equally, we have to distinguish simple errors with regard to oneself from proper cases of self-deception. The latter obviously are of a more complicated structure. Persons who fall prey to self-deception seem to harbour antagonistic tendencies. Occasionally, these tendencies were analysed in terms of simultaneously held incompatible beliefs. Theoretical approaches that consider self-deception as some kind of cognitive deficiency typically take this view. Contrary to this, the author argues that a phenomenological description endorses a deflationary conception of self-deception akin to Alfred Mele’s pioneering analyses. A phenomenological approach steers clear both of presuming unconscious processes (in terms of a Freudian theory of the unconscious) and of referring to contradicting beliefs. Accordingly, phenomenologists neither unduly strengthen the irrational components of human life (Freudian interpretation) nor do they defend a strongly rationalized account of human action (cognitivist interpretation). Instead, it will be argued that in a garden-variety of cases self-deception amounts to an emotionally motivated temporary suspension of our will to acquire knowledge or true belief. This special type of avoidance behaviour obviously has interesting moral implications. The latter centre round the issues of truthfulness, self-control, and responsibility. ‘— End of Abstract’


Moral Agent Phenomenological Approach Relevant Evidence Moral Person Moral Luck 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for PhilosophyKarl-Franzens-University GrazGrazAustria

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