The Philosophy of Deception

The Philosophy of Deception

The Philosophy of Deception

The Philosophy of Deception

Synopsis

This volume gathers together new essays on deception and self-deception by leading thinkers on the subject. The contributors discuss topics including the nature and the definition of deception; whether deception is morally blameworthy or not; attacks against and defenses of self-deception; and the most famous philosophical account of lying by Immanuel Kant. Deception of others and self-deception share many more interconnections than is normally recognized, and these essays reveal the benefits of considering them together.

he Philosophy of Deceptionill be of interest to philosophers across the spectrum including those interested in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, and metaphysics.

Excerpt

Sometimes we tell a lie, and there’s no doubt about it. The classic example is the lie a child tells when asked by his mother if he broke the cookie jar. “I don’t know who did it,” the boy says, and he is lying: he knows full well that the jar fell from the counter and shattered when he was reaching hopefully down and in for the last cookie. Similarly, there are cases of self-deception that are so straightforward no reasonable person can deny that here, at least, someone is lying to himself. To take an example suggested by Amelie Rorty in her chapter in this collection: your enormously accomplished, MacArthur-winning full professor friend comes to you and says, “They just denied my husband tenure, but the fact is his research is so much better than my own.” Here we see that whatever her motives—as Rorty points out, and Alfred Mele would agree, those motives may be considerably more complex than they initially appear— your friend is simply lying to herself. The boy in the first example is lying, and he knows it, he’s not in the least self-deceived about it; the woman in the second example is thoroughly self-deceived, and she does not know it (though we would say that at some level she must), and therefore she is not lying when she reports her belief to you.

But most of the lies we tell, whether we are telling them to one another or to ourselves, are not nearly so clear-cut. Lies and self-deceptions seem to exist along a continuum, with cases like the extreme ones I just mentioned on either end, and in the middle the many cases where the lies we tell others are inseparably mixed up with lies we tell ourselves. As Robert C. Solomon says, “Deception and self-deception are mutually entangled phenomena… to fool ourselves, we must either fool or exclude others; and to successfully fool others, we best fool ourselves” (page 25, this volume). During the worst days of the second war in Iraq, the cover of the European edition of the Economist showed President George W. Bush walking arm in arm with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, with the title “Sincere Deceivers.” The point, of course, was that it was neither the case that Bush and Blair took themselves to be telling the truth during the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.