Publication Type:


José Eduardo Porcher
Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul
Issue number: 
No. 2 (Vol. 44)

The traditional conception of self-deception takes it for an intrapersonal form of interpersonal deception. However, since the same subject is at the same time deceiver and deceived, this means attributing the agent a pair of contradictory beliefs. In the course of defending a deflationary conception of self-deception, Mele [1997] has challenged traditionalists to present convincing evidence that there are cases of self-deception in which what he calls the dual belief-requirement is satisfied. Levy [2009] has responded to this challenge affirming that there is at least one real cases of self-deception that meets this requirement, namely, that of anosognosia. In this family of conditions, the patient apparently believes that there is nothing wrong with her while, at the same time, providing behavioral cues that indicate that the patient is somehow aware of his disease. If Levy is right, then traditionalism about self-deception could be vindicated, after having been widely abandoned due to its need to postulate exotic mental processes in order to make sense of the attribution of contradictory beliefs. In this paper, I assess whether Levy’s response to Mele’s challenge is successful by analyzing his interpretation of the empirical evidence to which he appeals. Finally, I attack the cogency of the underlying commitments about the nature of folk psychology to which one is required to defer in order to draw from conflicting evidence the attribution of contradictory beliefs.

Self-deception. Anosognosia. Belief. Contradictory beliefs. Folk psychology.

Aimola Davies, A.M, Davies, M., Ogden, J.A., Smithson, M, and White, R.C. (2009). Cognitive and Motivational Factors in Anosognosia. In T. Bayne and J. Fernandez, Delusion and Self-Deception: Affective and Motivational Influences in Belief Formation. Psychology Press.

Audi, R. (1982). Self-Deception, Action, and Will. Erkenntnis 18: 133–58.

Bisiach, E. and Geminiani, G. (1991). Anosognosia related to hemiplegia and hemianopia. In G.P. Prigatano and D.L. Schacter, eds., Awareness of Deficits After Brain Injury. Oxford University Press.

Bortolotti, L. and Mameli, M. (2012). Self-deception, delusion and the boundaries of folk psychology. Humana.Mente 20: 203–221.

Cappa, S., Sterzi, R., Vallar, G. and Bisiach E. (1987). Remission of hemineglect and anosognosia during vestibular stimulation.Neuropsychologia 25: 775–82.

Canfield, J.V. and Gustafson, D.F. (1962). Self-Deception. Analysis 23: 32–36.

Davidson, D. (1985). Deception and Division. In J. Elster, ed., The Multiple Self. Cambridge University Press.

Fahle, M. (2003). Failures of visual analysis: scotoma, agnosia, and neglect. In M. Fahle and M. Greenlee, eds. The Neuropsychology of Vision. Oxford University Press.

Gendler, T.S. (2007). Self-deception as pretense. Philosophical Perspectives 21 (Philosophy of Mind), 231–258.

Hirstein, W. (2005). Brain Fiction: Self-Deception and the Riddle of Confabulation. MIT Press.

Johnston, M. (1988). Self-Deception and the Nature of Mind. In B. McLaughlin and A. Rorty, eds., Perspectives on Self-Deception. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Levy, N. (2009). Self-Deception Without Thought Experiments. In T. Bayne and J. Fernandez, Delusion and Self-Deception: Affective and Motivational Influences in Belief Formation. Psychology Press.

Marshall, J.C. and Halligan, P.W. (1988). Blindsight and insight in visuo-spatial neglect. Nature 336: 766–767.

Mele, A.R. (1997). Real Self-Deception. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 20: 91–102.

Mele, A.R. (2001). Self-Deception Unmasked. Princeton University Press.

Orfei, M.D., Robinson, R.G., Prigatano, G.P., Starkstein, S., Rüsch, N., Bria, P., Caltagirone, C. and Spalletta, G. (2007). Anosognosia for hemiplegia after stroke is a multifaceted phenomenon: a systematic review of the literature. Brain 130 (12): 3075–3090.

Pears, D. (1984). Motivated Irrationality. Oxford University Press.

Prigatano, G.P., ed., (2010). The Study of Anosognosia. Oxford University Press.

Ramachandran, V.S. (1995). Anosognosia in parietal lobe syndrome. Consciousness and Cognition 4(1): 22-51.

Ramachandran, V.S. (1996). The evolutionary biology of self-deception, laughter, dreaming and depression: Some clues from anosognosia. Medical Hypotheses 47(5): 347–362.

Ramachandran, V.S. and Blakeslee, S. (1998). Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind. Morrow & Co.

Sartre, J.-P. (1949/1957). Being and Nothingness, trans. H. Barnes. Pocket Books.

Unsworth, C. A. (2007). Cognitive and Perceptual Dysfunction. In T. J. Schmitz & S. B. O’Sullivan, eds., Physical Rehabilitation. Davis Company.

Weiskrantz, L. (1986). Blindsight: A Case Study and Implications. Oxford University Press.


Full Text: