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According to Neu, in a Cartesian view of self-knowledge, my mind is known to me directly and incorrigibly, so self-deception on the model of other-deception is impossible (I am suspicious that Neu's account of Descartes' and Sartre's pictures of self-knowledge on 68-69 oversimplifies, but I do not have the expertise to give a sufficient counter-interpretation).
And existentialist that he was, Sartre believed in unconditional freedom.
His position did not allow for hidden, subterranean, forces determining our choices in a way that might leave us without responsibility (67).
The book as a whole calls for abandoning belief in the unity and transparency of consciousness, and unconditional freedom, and draws upon psychoanalysis to explore deception of oneself and of others. If self-deception is a lie to oneself, then self-deception implies intention and knowledge on the part of the liar. Other-deception, as in the ordinary case of lying, requires that the deceiver know the truth while keeping the deceived from knowing it.
But in the case of self-deception, the two parties are collapsed into a single person, and the problem arises of how one person can simultaneously know (as he must, if he is to be a deceiver) and not know (as he must, if he is to be deceived) a single thing (68).
Neu says of Sartre: I believe his account of the paradoxes of self-deception is very helpful, and his alternative account of the mechanisms of (apparent) self-deception in terms of patterns of bad faith gives a vivid picture of some of the ways in which we trip over ourselves in our efforts at self-expression and self-understanding.
I believe also, however, that his account of certain patterns of bad faith (as stylized denials of freedom) provides only a partial picture of the (larger) realm of self-deception.Chapter 4 elaborates key conceptual points that inform many of his other studies, and I will review these arguments in some detail.In this essay, Neu engages Freud and Sartre to take a stance regarding the concept of the unconscious.The fourteen chapters can be organized into five groups or sections that I characterize as follows: (A) Ethical considerations regarding emotion, fantasy, and authenticity 1. Divided Minds: Sartre's "Bad Faith" Critique of Freud 5. Euthyphro, the Legal Realists, and the Dilemma of Authenticity 11. Rely to My Critics In my reading, the discussions of Freud in Chapters 4 through 7 (B) provide the theoretical heart of the book, and the treatments of law in Chapters 8 and 9 (C) show most clearly the force and significance of a philosophical attention to emotion, fantasy, intention, and speech.The essays are interwoven in several other respects.Readers interested in Freud from the standpoint of philosophical ethics often rely on a handful of scholarly treatments, such as those by Phillip Rieff, Paul Ricoeur, Richard Wollheim, and Jonathan Lear.Neu's essays build upon the work of these scholars and should be considered among the valuable resources that we have for integrating psychoanalytic approaches into our philosophical considerations of selfhood and ethics.Plato is an important yet problematic figure discussed early, especially in Chapter 4, and becomes especially prominent in Chapters 10 and 11.Neu's consideration of law and the state extends beyond Chapters 8 and 9 into the following two chapters. Chapters 1 through 3 raise important points on provocative issues, but I found them to be more compelling after studying Neu's account of Freud in successive chapters.Is the unconscious simply a mechanism, or does it have perceptiveness and purposiveness? And does the operation of semi-independent systems of reasons and mental causes require the postulation of semi-independent agents of consciousness?If repression is not purely mechanical, what "selectively directs" the application of the energy of repression? Neu highlights that these questions open up much larger issues: Does purposiveness require consciousness? This is the cluster of issues which reemerges in contemporary debates about the suitability and limits of computer models for the mind. (77) According to Neu, Sartre criticizes Freud in part "to insist that people have choices in many more situations than they acknowledge, and so are responsible for more than they would acknowledge." Neu writes, "I believe this is true, but it is misleading to conclude that people have a choice" (78).