Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



I present a theory of what I call "paradigmatic self-deception," the most serious and vivid cases of self-deception. While there has been much philosophical discussion of self-deception in recent decades, existing work does not explain how and why some cases of self-deception are more severe than others, when self-deception is intentional, and when an individual may justifiably be held morally responsible for being self-deceived. This dissertation answers all three of these important questions. The first chapter reviews the existing literature and motivates the need for a theory of paradigmatic cases. In the second chapter, I introduce three characteristic features of paradigmatic cases as revealed in the particular case of the Mitt Romney campaign's self-deception during the 2012 presidential election. Next, the third chapter explores how paradigmatic cases of self-deception are plausibly intentional, drawing on the empirical literature on attention and mindfulness meditation to argue that in paradigmatic cases self-deceivers make sophisticated use of attentional capacities to sustain their false beliefs and that the intentions under which these capacities are deployed are relevant to self-deception in a way that makes the overall activity of self-deception intentional. Finally, in the last chapter I claim that paradigmatic cases involve culpable ignorance, which I reduce to a kind of negligence: because the paradigmatically self-deceived are negligent, we can hold them morally responsible.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

John M Doris

Committee Members

Eric Brown, Ron Mallon, Dan Haybron, John Heil


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