In psychology it is called cognitive dissonance when you experience two or more conflicting beliefs. Some people would change their system of beliefs, others would just go on deluding themselves. This can be applied to religion, nationalism, political believes, "conspiracy theories", historical events and figures, facts about close friends, relatives etc.

I'm looking for philosophers and works that talk about the need people may experience to deceive themselves?

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it” The Matrix (1999)

“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.” Nietzche

"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." Demosthenes 384-322 BC

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    Sartre's "bad faith" (La mauvaise foi) – virmaior Nov 16 '17 at 12:18
  • No good ideas me. Maybe Durkheim and his 'personal constructs'? This seems to be the underlying issue. – PeterJ Nov 16 '17 at 12:25
  • If you consider scifi/fantasy authors to be philosophers, google the concept of "knurd", the opposite of "drunk". – barrycarter Nov 16 '17 at 15:25
  • As you already show, Nietzsche was one such philosopher – Ram Tobolski Nov 16 '17 at 23:24
  • "Decaying societies and classes are usually those which hold most fiercely to their fictions since they have nothing to gain by the truth." This is Erich Fromm in his "Beyond the Chains of Illusion: My encounter with Marx and Freud". In times of crisis or perceived crisis, these repressions get worse, and they become very rigid. – Gordon Nov 17 '17 at 5:46

There is no consensus among philosophers on the nature of self-deception but there is an extensive philosophical literature. Some of the following references may help. Central books are :


Brian P. McLaughlin and Amelie Oksenberg Rorty (eds), Perspectives on Self-Self-Deception (Univ. of California Press, 2018).

Michel Christoph, Self-knowledge and Self-deception: The Role of Transparency in First Personal Knowledge (mentis-Verlag, 2017).

Annette Barnes, Seeing through Self-Deception (Cambridge Studies in Philosophy), (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Mike W. Martin, Self-deception and Morality (University Press of Kansas, United States, 1986).

Mike W. Martin (ed.), Self-Deception and Self-Understanding (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1985).

M.R. Haight, A Study of Self-Deception (Brighton: Harvester, 1980).

Herbert Fingarette, Self-Deception (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969). (Despite its age, this book is much referred to.)

Among very many articles :


Kevin Lynch, 'Self-Deception and Stubborn Belief', Erkenntnis (1975-), Vol. 78, No. 6 (December 2013), pp. 1337-1345.

Tamar Szabó Gendler, Self-Deception as Pretense, Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 21, (2007), pp. 231-258.

Herbert Fingarette, 'Self-Deception Needs No Explaining', The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), Vol. 48, No. 192 (Jul., 1998), pp. 289-301.

Dion Scott-Kakures, 'Self-Deception and Internal Irrationality', Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 56, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 31-56.

Alfred R. Mele, Self-Deception, The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), Vol. 33, No. 133 (Oct., 1983), pp. 365-377.

Hope this helps.


The wisest of philosophers in my book [due out next lifetime :) ] would be according to the Bible. Colossians 2:8 

Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy [φιλοσοφίας] and vain deceit: according to the tradition [παράδοσιν] of men according to the elements [στοιχεῖα] of the world and not according to Christ. 

Not that others won't make good points in this matter! But Christian thinkers have proposed that the knowledge of the existence of God is "properly basic", as natural to believe as "I left my keys in the top drawer" or "I see a cat outside". Thus disbelief in God causes dissonance in this cognition.

The descendants of Adam have sought out an immense number of inventions, in order to find happiness in the world, without God, which have only proved so many variations of impiety and iniquity. This is the point made in the treasury of scriptural knowledge, in reference to Romans chapter 1, verse 28:

And even as they did not think fit to have God in their knowledge [ἐπιγνώσει], God gave them up to a reprobate [ἀδόκιμον] mind, to do the things not right[...].

The full cure for human self-deception, biblically, would be to be convicted of one's own rejection of their original position with God. When they suppressed the truth they originally had, and nevertheless through common grace were allowed lifetimes where eventually Jesus would enable through salvation grace those who repent and accept the Holy Spirit as the one who can teach them to stop practicing sin, tho their sinning would continue but not per the old habitual and darkened heart nature. With the renewed heart they could deal with their remaining indwelling sin until they could mature from being baby believers, on the milk, and gain a renewed mind on solid food. Hebrew 5:13,14 

[...] for everyone partaking of milk is without experience in the Word [ λόγου ] of Righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for those full grown, having exercised the faculties through habit, for distinction of both good and bad. 

...where the aspect of distinction would disallow the old nature, which is still working in various degrees to bring self deception. For the baby Christian, once recognizing what he or she had done, can grow in understanding through recognizing the continuing dangers that can come from the remaining indwelling sins that the believer is protected from.

Sins are hid in Christ and remain hid as one continues to grow. Over time, the Holy Spirit brings Christians into situations to better recognize the remaining self-deceptive habits of one's old nature (fallen man), habits that seek to deceive others and even one's own self.

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