Delusional Evidence-Responsiveness

Synthese 199 (3-4):6299-6330 (2021)
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Delusions are deeply evidence-resistant. Patients with delusions are unmoved by evidence that is in direct conflict with the delusion, often responding to such evidence by offering obvious, and strange, confabulations. As a consequence, the standard view is that delusions are not evidence-responsive. This claim has been used as a key argumentative wedge in debates on the nature of delusions. Some have taken delusions to be beliefs and argued that this implies that belief is not constitutively evidence-responsive. Others hold fixed the evidenceresponsiveness of belief and take this to show that delusions cannot be beliefs. Against this common assumption, I appeal to a large range of empirical evidence to argue that delusions are evidence-responsive in the sense that subjects have the capacity to respond to evidence on their delusion in rationally permissible ways. The extreme evidence-resistance of delusions is a consequence of powerful masking factors on these capacities, such as strange perceptual experiences, motivational factors, and cognitive biases. This view makes room for holding both that belief is constitutively evidence-responsive and that delusions are beliefs, and it has important implications for the study and treatment of delusions.

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Carolina Flores
University of California, Irvine


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