Delusions and Everyday Life

In Ema Sullivan-Bissett (ed.), Belief, Imagination, and Delusion. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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This chapter aims to get away from the ‘psychological attitude’ approach framing current philosophical discussion of delusion. We ask not what kind of attitude a delusion is – a belief or an imagination? Something else? – as if it were already clear what the ‘content’ of a delusion could be. We aim instead to shift attention to the question of the ‘object’ of delusions. What is delusion of? What is the object of this form of thinking? This focus on a delusion’s object, over its attitudinal nature, is partly motivated by a desire properly to connect delusory thought with ordinary forms of fantastical thinking that are ubiquitous in the experiences faced by reflective humans in everyday life. We aim at securing a continuity, in a way that much extant discussion of delusion fails to, between delusory thought with more ordinary forms of thinking present in, for example, fantastical or magical thinking. Exploring familiar expressions of such thinking, especially those involved in love and loss, enables us to bring out the way in which such expressions convey forms of affective self-consciousness – that have the subject and her relations as an object – that are not naturally taken as reports liable to investigation as true or false. This raises the question about what how to think about what someone is doing when they give expression to a delusion should we think of them as expressing an attitude towards a truth or false content, or may they be doing something rather different?

Author Profiles

Douglas Lavin
University College London
Lucy O'Brien
University College London


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