The spandrels of self-deception: Prospects for a biological theory of a mental phenomenon

Philosophical Psychology 20 (3):329 – 348 (2007)
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Abstract
Three puzzles about self-deception make this mental phenomenon an intriguing explanatory target. The first relates to how to define it without paradox; the second is about how to make sense of self-deception in light of the interpretive view of the mental that has become widespread in philosophy; and the third concerns why it exists at all. In this paper I address the first and third puzzles. First, I define self-deception. Second, I criticize Robert Trivers' attempt to use adaptionist evolutionary psychology to solve the third puzzle (existence). Third, I sketch a theory to replace that of Trivers. Self-deception is not an adaptation, but a spandrel in the sense that Gould and Lewontin give the term: a byproduct of other features of human (cognitive) architecture. Self-deception is so undeniable a fact of human life that if anyone tried to deny its existence, the proper response would be to accuse this person of it. (Allen Wood, 1988).
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The Evolution of Misbelief.McKay, Ryan T. & Dennett, Daniel C.

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