Understanding Delusions: Evidence, Reason, and Experience

Dissertation, University of Warwick (2021)
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This thesis develops a novel framework for explaining delusions. In Chapter 1, I introduce the two fundamental challenges posed by delusions: the evidence challenge lies in explaining the flagrant ways delusions flout evidence; and the specificity challenge lies in explaining the fact that patients’ delusions are often about a few specific themes, and patients rarely have a wide range of delusional or odd beliefs. In Chapter 2, I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of current theories of delusions, which typically appeal to one or both of two factors: anomalous experience and reasoning abnormality. I argue that anomalous experience can help explain the specificity of delusions, but has difficulties in addressing the evidence challenge; reasoning abnormality can help address the evidence challenge, but has difficulties in explaining the specificity of delusions. This suggests that there may be an important factor that has not been captured by current theories of delusions. To search for this missing factor, in Chapter 3, I turn to normal believing. Inspired by the literature on Cartesian clarity and phenomenal dogmatism, I develop a dual-force framework of believing, according to which beliefs can be understood as the results of the interaction between the justificatory force and causal force of evidence and the justificatory force and causal force of clear experience, in which something clearly seems to be so to the subject. This framework suggests that the missing factor may be the clear experience with its distinctive phenomenal clarity that compels assent. In Chapter 4, I return to delusions, and argue that the dualforce framework can help us to get a better grip on some personal descriptions of delusions; make progress in addressing the evidence and specificity challenges of delusions; and shed new light on the underpinnings of delusions. In the end, I conclude with some remaining questions for future study.



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Chenwei Nie
University of Warwick

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References found in this work

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.

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