Psychoanalysis, Self-Deception, and the Problem of Teleology

Authored by: Simon Boag

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy

Print publication date:  November  2022
Online publication date:  November  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367276454
eBook ISBN: 9780429297076
Adobe ISBN:


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Explaining how both repression and self-deception occur provides an ongoing challenge for both psychology and philosophy. This chapter examines repression and self-deception in light of the static and dynamic paradoxes of self-deception and the problem of knowing in order not to know. The chapter first addresses these logical paradoxes to both clarify where the actual problems lie and to identify problematic strategies for explaining the harder cases of repression and self-deception. From this, strongly partitive accounts of the mind and the role of intentions and teleology in repression and self-deception are then addressed. The problem of teleology in functional accounts of repression is then discussed in the context of ‘betrayal blindness’ found within betrayal trauma theory. After demonstrating that teleology prevents such approaches from providing coherent theories of repression and self-deception, a realist-relational view of mentality is developed for addressing the logical difficulty with such positions. An alternative non-teleological account of betrayal blindness based on efficient causes is then proffered in terms of Freud’s account of the ‘blindness of the seeing eye’, which embraces an apparent paradox with respect to both knowing and not knowing the repressed simultaneously.

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