What Does Self-Deception Tell Us About the Self? A Sartrean Perspective

  • David Mitchell


There is something strangely intimate about self-deception. That is, the secrets we keep from ourselves, and our methods for accomplishing this, seem to go to the heart of who we are in an essential way. And so too is this the case for our understanding of humanity in general. For, as Fingarette has noted, ‘were a portrait of man to be drawn we should surely place well in the foreground man’s enormous capacity for self-deception’.1 Indeed, we might even say that man’s ability to deceive himself about everything from sexual desire to death is what fundamentally distinguishes him. And this is not, as Morris has suggested, merely some idiosyncrasy that might occur ‘from time to time’2. In other words, self-deception is not just a contingent ‘error’ occasionally affixing itself to the functioning of an otherwise rational self. Rather, as is the case in our own lives, the nature of what we disguise points towards something more significant about who we are. In short, in the individual case and the general, the secrets we hold from ourselves seem to offer a unique road to understanding the mysteries of the self.


Double Property Conscious Mind Phenomenological Account Contradictory Belief Ordinary Belief 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Mitchell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of JohannesburgAuckland ParkSouth Africa

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