The Pragmatic Hypothesis Testing Theory of Self-Deception and the Belief/Acceptance Distinction

Philosophy 98 (1):29-53 (2023)
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According to the pragmatic hypothesis testing theory, how much evidence we require before we believe something varies depending on the expected costs of falsely believing and disbelieving it. This theory has been used in the self-deception debate to explain our tendencies towards self-deceptive belief formation. This article argues that the application of this theory in the self-deception debate has overlooked the distinction between belief and acceptance, and that the theory in all likelihood models acceptance rather than belief, in which case it is probably not relevant to the explanation of self-deception. It is suggested, however, that doxastic error costs might be relevant to explaining some types of self-deception, though they feature in an evolutionary explanation of it rather than a psychological one.

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Kevin Lynch
Huaqiao University


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