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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 4, 1978

Michael W. Martin
Pages 27-54

Sartre on Lying to Oneself

How, if at all, could a person intentionally persuade himself into believing something he knew to be false? Acting upon his intention would apparently require that he knowingly use his grasp of some truth in the very act of concealing that truth and in getting himself to believe the opposite falsehood. Sartre's elaboration of this problem as well as his examples of self-deception are widely acclaimed, yet too often the remainder of his account has been dismissed as hopelessly riddled with paradox and obscure jargon. I first provide an exegesis of the account that displays its coherence and rich suggestiveness. Next I argue that the account falls short of fully resolving the problems to which it is addressed, but that nevertheless a satisfactory resolution of the problems does emerge from a close examination of Sartre's examples.