Self-Deception and Illusions of Esteem: Contextualizing Du Châtelet’s Challenge

In Ruth Edith Hagengruber (ed.), Époque Émilienne. Philosophy, Science and Culture in the Age of Émilie Du Châtelet. Cham, Switzerland: pp. 391-410 (2022)
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Abstract

This article discusses Du Châtelet’s challenging claim that entertaining illusions, especially illusions of being esteemed by posterity, is conducive to happiness. It does so by taking a contextualizing approach, contrasting her views with some Epicurean aspects of the views on illusions and happiness in Bernard de Fontenelle and Julien Offray de La Mettrie. I will argue for three claims: (1) Du Châtelet’s comparison between self-related illusions and illusions in the theater is vulnerable to objections deriving from some distinctions that Fontenelle’s poetics draws between the role of illusions in the theater and the role of illusions in real life. (2) Examining Fontenelle’s analysis of the detrimental effects of self-related illusions indicates several respects in which Du Châtelet has underestimated the ambivalent nature of illusions. (3) Du Châtelet’s view that illusions are akin to sensations that are favorable to us problematically generalizes La Mettrie’s insight that some acts of the imagination have a quasi-perceptual nature.

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Andreas Blank
Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt

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