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New Meetup: November 2010 Socrates Cafe Meetup: On Self-Deception

From: Andy
Sent on: Sunday, November 7, 2010 9:47 AM
Announcing a new Meetup for Socrates Cafe!

What: November 2010 Socrates Cafe Meetup: On Self-Deception

When: Monday, November 22,[masked]:30 PM

Where: Panera
500 S National Ave
Springfield, MO 65802

In his poem ?To a Louse,? the great 18th-century Scottish poet Robert Burns pleaded for liberation from self-deception about ourselves: ?O would some Power the gift to give us / To see ourselves as others see us!? (Translated from the Scottish dialect.) A former professor of mine once offered, only half-jokingly, a starkly opposed view: ?If we all saw ourselves as others see us, 95% of us would commit suicide.? I suspect most of us would side more with Burns. In his poem he goes on to offer reasons self-knowledge would be valuable: ?It would from many a blunder free us, / And foolish notion: / What airs in dress and gait would leave us, / And even devotion!? And we do want to be freed from blunders and foolish notions. Or don?t we?

In recent decades the topic of self-deception, whether the self-deception is about ourselves or something else (such as a religious or political proposition), has received a great deal of attention from philosophers, for a number of reasons. There are puzzles about how self-deception (as distinct from straightforward error) can occur at all. Suppose we understand self-deception on the model of one person?s deceiving another. When person A deceives person B, A intentionally induces B to believe something A believes to be false. But how can one intentionally induce oneself to believe something one believes to be false? Wouldn?t a person have to be seriously irrational to hold contradictory beliefs at the same time? And how can one sensibly intend to deceive oneself? Wouldn?t the intended deception be bound to fail, in the same way a lie is bound to fail when the person hearing it is aware it?s a lie?

These particular puzzles about self-deception disappear if we assume that self-deception is unintentional rather than intentional. But if self-deception is unintentional, it may seem that the blame commonly assigned to self-deceivers is misplaced: If a person?s self-deception is unintentional, how can we legitimately blame the person for it? How can self-deception be an ethical failing? Thus there are important questions about free will, responsibility, and moral obligations in connection with self-deception.

In our next Meetup we will put our heads together to try to answer these philosophical questions about self-deception.

Note that the time and place of the Meetup are not the same as usual. I've been informed that Mama Jean's meeting room won't be available again until mid-December. And I couldn't find another meeting room available on a Saturday morning.

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