Self‐deception and pragmatic encroachment: A dilemma for epistemic rationality

Ratio 34 (1):20-32 (2020)
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Self-deception is typically considered epistemically irrational, for it involves holding certain doxastic attitudes against strong counter-evidence. Pragmatic encroachment about epistemic rationality says that whether it is epistemically rational to believe, withhold belief or disbelieve something can depend on perceived practical factors of one’s situation. In this paper I argue that some cases of self-deception satisfy what pragmatic encroachment considers sufficient conditions for epistemic rationality. As a result, we face the following dilemma: either we revise the received view about self-deception or we deny pragmatic encroachment on epistemic rationality. I suggest that the dilemma can be solved if we pay close attention to the distinction between ideal and bounded rationality. I argue that the problematic cases fail to meet standards of ideal rationality but exemplify bounded rationality. The solution preserves pragmatic encroachment on bounded rationality, but denies it on ideal rationality.

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Jie Gao
Zhejiang University


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