The purpose of this thesis is to investigate and dissolve the puzzles and paradoxes of irrationality in thought and action. The project is divided into four sections: a general introduction, and three chapters. The introduction broadly outlines the nature of the issue, which is then broken down in the introductions to chapters one and two respectively.

The first chapter consists in a detailed analysis of a kind of irrationality in thought, namely self-deception. The paradoxes of self-deception are taken to be generated by the view that self-deception is intentional: that is, one must intend the deception. Proponents of this view argue the self-deception can be adequately explained without the presence of an intention, and hence is not paradoxical. I reject this view and argue that without the presence of an intention, there would remain nothing selective about the nature of this phenomena. I conclude that intentional self-deception is ‘unparadoxically’ possible.

In the second chapter I consider a kind of irrationality in action, namely incontinent, weak willed, or akratic action: that is, acting contrary to one’s better judgment. This phenomena threatens and undermines the principles of practical reasoning (evaluative judgements) and intentional action. This threat has led several philosophers to deny the possibility of free and intentional action contrary to a consciously held better judgment. I reject any variant of this view by arguing that such action is and must be possible if we are to have, and understand, the concept of ‘weakness of the will’. I conclude that an adequate explanation of akratic action is not as puzzling as it is made out to be and can be provided without altogether abandoning the principles mentioned above.

The third chapter draws together the key elements involved in dissolving the paradoxes and puzzles analyzed in the first two chapters. I challenge the accepted standards of rationality in explaining and understanding human agency. Subsequently, I conclude that irrationality in thought and action cannot be explained away.


Garrett, Thomson



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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