Self-deception in and out of Illness: Are some subjects responsible for their delusions?

Palgrave Communications 15 (3):1-12 (2017)
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Abstract
This paper raises a slightly uncomfortable question: are some delusional subjects responsible for their delusions? This question is uncomfortable because we typically think that the answer is pretty clearly just ‘no’. However, we also accept that self-deception is paradigmatically intentional behavior for which the self-deceiver is prima facie blameworthy. Thus, if there is overlap between self-deception and delusion, this will put pressure on our initial answer. This paper argues that there is indeed such overlap by offering a novel philosophical account of self-deception. The account offered is independently plausible and avoids the main problems that plague other views. It also yields the result that some delusional subjects are self-deceived. The conclusion is not, however, that those subjects are blameworthy. Rather, a distinction is made between blameworthiness and ‘attributability’. States or actions can be significantly attributable to a subject—in the sense that they are expressions of their wills—without it being the case that the subject is blameworthy, if the subject has an appropriate excuse. Understanding delusions within this framework of responsibility and excuses not only illuminates the ways in which the processes of delusional belief formation and maintenance are continuous with ‘ordinary’ processes of belief formation and maintenance, it also provides a way of understanding the innocence of the delusional subject that does not involve the denial of agency.
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Archival date: 2019-09-11
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2019-09-11

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