Taking Care: Self-Deception, Culpability and Control

Teorema: International Journal of Philosophy 26 (3):161-176 (2007)
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Abstract

Whether self-deceivers can be held morally responsible for their self-deception is largely a question of whether they have the requisite control over the acquisition and maintenance of their self-deceptive beliefs. In response to challenges to the notion that self-deception is intentional or requires contradictory beliefs, models treating self-deception as a species of motivated belief have gained ascendancy. On such so-called deflationary accounts, anxiety, fear, or desire triggers psychological processes that produce bias in favor of the target belief with the result that self-deceivers acquire and retain false beliefs in the face of a preponderance of counter-evidence. On the face of it, such approaches seem to exculpate self-deceivers insofar as their self-deceptive belief is the result of such a process. In this essay, I examine the conditions under which self-deceivers might be culpable on deflationary models proposed by Neil Levy. In particular, I contend that contrary to Levy, a self-deceiver need not doubt the target belief nor recognize its moral importance to be held morally responsible.

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Ian Deweese-Boyd
Gordon College

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