The Doxastic Status of Delusion and the Limits of Folk Psychology

In Inês Hipólito, Jorge Gonçalves & João G. Pereira (eds.), Schizophrenia and Common Sense: Explaining the Relation Between Madness and Social Values. New York: Springer. pp. 175–190 (2018)
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Clinical delusions are widely characterized as being pathological beliefs in both the clinical literature and in common sense. Recently, a philosophical debate has emerged between defenders of the commonsense position (doxasticists) and their opponents, who have the burden of pointing toward alternative characterizations (anti-doxasticists). In this chapter, I argue that both doxasticism and anti- doxasticism fail to characterize the functional role of delusions while at the same time being unable to play a role in the explanation of these phenomena. I also argue that though a more nuanced view of belief in which mental states are more or less belief-like instills a healthy skepticism towards the precision of folk-psychological concepts, such a stance fails to be of use in building a theory of delusion that will be able to bridge different levels of explanation, such as the phenomenology and neurobiology of delusion. Thus, I advocate moving past the question ‘Are delusions beliefs?’ and their description as propositional attitudes toward the description of the processes that generate delusion, with a view toward explaining, rather than explaining away, the personal-level aspects of the phenomenon that have been made inscrutable by investing in doxastic terminology.

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José Eduardo Porcher
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro


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