David Payne

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Larry Mayhew, Robert Roberts


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Degree Program

Department of Philosophy & Religion

Degree Type

Master of Arts


People quite often speak of other individuals as deceiving themselves, and yet such an ordinary phrase has caused an immense concern in philosophic circles. In order to grasp why this is so we must realize fully exactly what the self-deceiver is doing – he is seemingly lying to himself. This, though, generates a paradox, for if a person is lying about something he necessarily must hold certain evidence which is not available to his victim. But how is such a thing possible within on human being? A person must somehow both know and not know the same thing simultaneously.

This paper attempts to clarify the issues involved here – the paradox itself, the motive of self-deception, and the move into self-deception. In doing so we find that self-deception is neither paradoxical nor blatantly irrational in its methodology. Instead, the self-deceiver utilizes procedures common to everyone, such as controlled attention and inattention, forgetfulness, and rationalization. The paradox of self-deception disappears when we no longer accept the idea that the self-deceiver believes in the face of evidence to the contrary, but rather always believes with sufficient reason to do so.


Applied Ethics | Arts and Humanities | Ethics in Religion | Philosophy | Religion