Everything Is Going to Be Okay, Right? Kindness, Compassion, and the Moral Permissibility of Self-Deception
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Most people seem to have the intuition that self-deception is always and obviously wrong. In this thesis, I make the case that under certain circumstances, self-deception can actually do a great deal of good and ought to be morally permissible – especially in cases where it would be life-threatening, dehumanizing, or cruel to insist on complete authenticity. I argue that self-deception can be rational and that it can also sometimes be morally permissible to allow the self-deception of others to go unchallenged, especially in cases where the opportunity to exercise compassion, empathy, and kindness towards each other takes precedence over a concern for truth. I then confront self-deception’s staunchest opponents, the Existentialists, who maintain that self-deception is never morally permissible because it conflicts with their supreme value, authenticity. I focus specifically on the work of Nietzsche and Sartre and identify the various problems that arise from their objections to self-deception. I conclude this thesis with some suggestions as to why so many people might have come to believe that authenticity is the supreme value, when a closer investigation suggests that it probably is not.