Intensity of Experience: Maher’s Theory of Schizophrenic Delusion Revisited

Neuroethics 12 (2):171-182 (2018)
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Maher proposed in 1974 that schizophrenic delusions are hypotheses formed to explain anomalous experiences. He stated that they are “rational, given the intensity of the experiences that they are developed to explain.” Two-factor theorists of delusion criticized Maher’s theory because 1) it does not explain why some patients with anomalous experiences do not develop delusions, and 2) adopting and adhering to delusional hypotheses is irrational, considering the totality of experiences and patients’ other beliefs. In this paper, the notion of the intensity of experience is reappraised to uphold Maher’s basic conception. Regarding 1), I propose that differences in the intensity of anomalous experience are vital to whether the patient forms delusions, while partially reforming his rationality claim regarding 2). Although adopting delusions is irrational, it is inevitable and excusable, given the intensity of the patient’s anomalous experience. With the aid of this notion, it is maintained that anomalous experience is sufficient for the development of delusions, at least in some cases of schizophrenia. Compared to other theories of schizophrenic delusion, Maher’s theory, which embraces the notion of intensity of experience, better explains why such irrational mental states as delusions develop from anomalous experiences, and why delusional patients persist in believing specific thematic content.



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