Revisiting Maher’s one-factor theory of delusion

Neuroethics (forthcoming)
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How many factors, i.e. departures from normality, are necessary to explain a delusion? Maher’s classic one-factor theory argues that the only factor is the patient’s anomalous experience, and a delusion arises as a normal explanation of this experience. The more recent two-factor theory, on the other hand, contends that a second factor is also needed, with reasoning abnormality being a potential candidate, and a delusion arises as an abnormal explanation of the anomalous experience. In the past few years, although there has been an increasing number of scholars offering a variety of arguments in defence of Maher’s one-factor theory, these arguments have not been adequately addressed by two-factor theorists. This paper aims to address this gap by critically examining the arguments on three crucial issues: the intelligibility of delusions, the dissociation between anomalous experiences and delusions, and the empirical evidence of a second factor. I will argue that the Maherian notion of anomalous experience is not sufficient for explaining delusions and the two-factor theory is on the right track in its search for the missing factor in the aetiology of delusions.

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Chenwei Nie
Jagiellonian University


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