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Delusions And Folk Epistemology Dominic Murphy Unit for HPS University of Sydney.

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1 Delusions And Folk Epistemology Dominic Murphy Unit for HPS University of Sydney

2 Psychiatric concept of delusion: 1.false belief, held despite evidence to the contrary 2. not explicable in terms of cultural background 3. certainty cannot be shaken by argument

3 I will argue that we can understand this psychiatric concept as the application of a piece of folk epistemology and explore some consequences of this idea.

4 Puzzles: Are delusions beliefs? Do they have to be false? Whats the deal with this cultural get-out clause?

5 The textbook concept of delusion is based around strange contents: My spouse has been replaced by a robot My psychiatrist is turning me into a woman I invented the pop-up toaster

6 Lets look again at the cultural exception clause. Religion is explicitly exempted.

7 Will Christ return to reign in glory in Johnson County, Missouri? To be resolved by checking with designated religious authorities. Yes, my elder says so (Im not delusional) Yes, my dog says so (Im psychotic)

8 Conjecture We should see the cultural exemption as an epistemic condition, tracking sources of beliefs – in this case, forms of culturally sanctioned testimony – that we regard as only to be expected, given our intuitive expectations about human nature.

9 A Proposal Delusions are beliefs acquired in ways that defeat intuitive expectations about mechanisms of belief acquisition. Folk epistemology

10 Folk epistemology: the ordinary (folk), common sense theory of knowledge present in the average person (Kitchener 2002) Most work so far is in developmental psychology There is also some work on f the norms or mechanisms governing reasoning and justification (e.g Sperber et al 2010 on evaluating testimony)

11 But Much of this work is too heavily weighted towards what epistemologists care about. We need to look at ways in which our understanding of belief fixation is sensitive to causes that do not justify

12 Folk Epistemology Expectations about how beliefs are acquired. Some of these are the stuff of freshman epistemology – e.g. being appeared to redly in normal conditions. Others have to do with cognition and culture ( believe what the serpent god tells you ) or self-interest. But not all causes are OK, are neither are inexplicable beliefs.

13 Folk epistemology is naturalistic Expectations about belief formation are based on assumptions about how the mind works and admit questionably rational processes. E.g, we allow that interests may bias belief (the murderers mother, Plancks Principle)

14 Belief fixation can strike us pathological Nick Haslam: a pathologising judgement creates an explanatory gap; it reflects the failure of normal folk psychological models to work, and triggers a search for other sorts of explanation. How do judgements of pathology work?

15 Intuitive detection of mental disorder. We think of certain forms of behavior as evidence of normality or dysfunction: e.g. grief is normal, but grief-like behavior in the absence of a sufficient trigger is evidence of an underlying endogenous abnormality (cf Horwitz and Wakefield 2007

16 Intuitive detection triggers explanatory models (Boyer) Expectations about normal behavior depend on folk models. Some culture-bound, Internalized norms some seem to be universal: Memory is a store Agency is internally generated

17 The basic story (Pascal Boyer) 1.As behaviour becomes focus of attention 2.As behaviour violates others ordinary expectations of interactions 3.Automatic search for explanations in terms of folk models fails 4.Observers entertain an explanation in terms of violated folk models

18 Religion, again Psychiatrists will contact a religious authority figure to determine whether a putative delusion is part of a system of doctrine because we regard religious communities as a normal source of belief. But endogenous religion will be suspect. (cf The Cheese and the Worms)

19 Borderline cases disagreements over norms/psychological structures and hence dispute over beliefs: Conspiracy theories? New Religious Movements? People who believe that four doubles helps their driving? Wishful thinking/self-deception

20 Having settled on your witch name you must keep it very, very secret, as it will eventually be one of the keys to your deep mind. You will be using it whenever you wish to switch on to perform a spell; this will be partly accomplished by pronouncing the name silently to yourself. Tanya Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witchs Craft.

21 Back to Psychiatry Problems with the clinical concept of delusion result from intermingling content and process in belief formation? If something violates (broad) folk psychology it is defeasible evidence of mental illness

22 So: A delusion is a belieflike state that: a. Is acquired (and maintained) in ways that defeat intuitive expectations about mechanisms of belief acquisition and maintenance. b. The person reporting the belief is unable to acknowledge that the belief fits within criterion a. (cf. Hallucinations vs Charles Bonnet syndrome)

23 Is Delusion A Natural Kind ? Perhaps no scientific theory of belief fixation and its pathologies will catch all and only the causes of delusions. There might be lots of ways to form an aberrant belief, and no reason to suppose that they can all receive a common explanation.

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