Self-Deception: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover


1st Edition

By Eric Funkhouser


276 pages

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Self-deception poses longstanding and fascinating paradoxes. Philosophers have questioned whether, and how, self-deception is even possible; evolutionary theorists have debated whether it is adaptive. For Sigmund Freud self-deception was a fundamental key to understanding the unconscious, and from The Bible to The Great Gatsby literature abounds with characters renowned for their self-deception. But what exactly is self-deception? Why is it so puzzling? How is it performed? And is it harmful?

In this thorough and clearly written introduction to the philosophy and psychology of self-deception, Eric Funkhouser examines and assesses these questions and more:

  • Clarification of the conceptual background and "Basic problem" of self-deception, including Freud and Davidson and the important debate between intentionalists and motivationalists
  • Deflationary accounts that appeal to cognitive and motivational biases, with emphasis on how motives and emotions drive self-deception
  • Intentional self-deception and the "divided mind," including the role of the unconscious in recent psychological research
  • Challenges that self-deception poses for philosophy of mind and psychology, especially for our understanding of intention, belief, and deception
  • Biology and moral psychology of self-deception: Is self-deception functional or beneficial? Are the self-deceived to be held accountable?

Combining philosophical analysis with the latest psychological research, and including features such as chapter summaries, annotated recommended reading and a glossary, Self-Deception is an excellent resource for students of philosophy of mind and psychology, moral psychology and ethics, as well as those in related fields such as psychology and cognitive science.


"This book on the perennial and fateful paradox of cognitive dissonance is a philosophical tour de force. It skillfully lays out the general structure of the problems of 'self-deception', integrating philosophical analysis with relevant work in the social sciences. This makes the author's own critique especially illuminating. It deserves to become a standard work." - David Pugmire, University of Southampton, UK

"This is a superb book, ideal for anyone looking for an accessible and systematic introduction to the philosophy and psychology of self-deception. It is well organised, beautifully written, and does a wonderful job of addressing the key issues surrounding this puzzling phenomenon." - Ema Sullivan-Bissett, University of Birmingham, UK

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The Basic Problem and a Conceptual Map

3. Deflationary Accounts

4. Intentionalism and Divided Mind Accounts

5. Revisionary Accounts: Belief and Purpose

6. Responsibility for Self-Deception

7. Functions and Cost-Benefit Analysis

8. Conclusion.

Glossary of Terms



About the Author

Eric Funkhouser is a Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Arkansas, USA. He is the author of The Logical Structure of Kinds (2014).

About the Series

New Problems of Philosophy

New Problems of Philosophy

Series Editor: José Luis Bermúdez, Texas A&M University

'Routledge's New Problems of Philosophy series has a most impressive line-up of topical volumes aimed at upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in philosophy and at others with interests in cutting edge philosophical work. The authors are influential figures in their respective fields and notably adept at synthesizing and explaining intricate topics fairly and comprehensively.' - John Heil, Monash University, Australia, and Washington University, St Louis, USA

'This is an outstanding collection of volumes. The topics are well chosen and the authors are outstanding. They will be fine texts in a wide range of courses.' - Stephen Stich, Rutgers University, USA

The New Problems of Philosophy series provides accessible and engaging surveys of the most important problems in contemporary philosophy. Each book examines a topic or theme that has emerged on the philosophical landscape in recent years, or that is a longstanding problem refreshed in light of recent work in philosophy and related disciplines. Clearly explaining the nature of the problem at hand and assessing attempts to answer it, books in the series are excellent starting-points for undergraduate and graduate students wishing to study a single topic in depth. They will also be essential reading for professional philosophers. Additional features include chapter summaries, further reading, and a glossary of technical terms.

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