Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology 6.1, March 1999
The Phenomenology of Abnormal Belief: A Philosophical and Psychiatric Inquiry
- Belief and doubt.
Delusion, one of the key symptoms of madness, has defied
definition, being described as a belief, an incomprehensible
phenomenon, and as an empty speech act. It was hypothesized that a
detailed investigation of its characteristics would aid categorization
and help to understand what makes it different from everyday forms of
belief. Philosophical texts (principally those of Locke, Hume, Newman,
and James, together with more recent writings from "folk psychology")
were surveyed to elicit belief characteristics which could then be
introduced to established clinical tests. Seven qualities drawn from the
philosophy of mind were added to five borrowed from empirical psychology
in an attempt to broaden the investigation of delusion. These revealed
significant differences between delusions held by schizophrenics, the
overvalued ideas of anorectics, and the religious beliefs of a normal
population of church attendees. This study shows not only that these
phenomena are capable of detailed analysis, but that ideas taken from
philosophy can be profitably reapplied to complex questions of descriptive
abnormal belief, delusion, overvalued idea, faith, folk
psychology, initial and derived beliefs, David Hume, William James
Stephens, G. Lynn.
- Mental illness -- Diagnosis.
- Jones, Edgar. Phenomenology of abnormal belief: a philosophical and psychiatric inquiry.
Response to Commentaries
- David, Anthony S. On the impossibility of defining delusions.
- Ghaemi, S. Nassir. Empirical approach to understanding delusions.
- Stephens, G. Lynn. Defining delusion.
Freedom, Resentment, and the Psychopath
- Insanity, Moral.
- Strawson, P. F. -- Criticism and interpretation.
This paper discusses the moral responsibility of psychopaths for
their anti-social actions. Starting from P. F. Strawson's discussion of
our participant reactive attitudes, which stresses their indispensability
for meaningful human relations, the paper contrasts a variety of "normal"
wrongdoers with psychopaths. It suggests that the latter are often
seriously deficient in their capacity to entertain these attitudes, and
that their resulting lack of proper self-evaluation may explain both
their callousness and their imprudence. It is then argued that only
creatures able to entertain participant reactive attitudes can be proper
objects of those attitudes, since these reactions have a communicative
core whose expression has a point only in a shared moral world. For
this reason, if psychopaths are incapable of moral understanding, they
may not be proper targets of anger and resentment. This, however, may
have an illiberal implication, in possibly excluding psychopaths from
possessing certain rights.
participant reactive attitudes, Strawson, Kantian thought
Response to the Commentaries
- Adshead, Gwen. Psychopaths and other-regarding beliefs.
- Harold, James. Travelers, mercenaries, and psychopaths.
- Gillett, Grant, 1950-. Benn-ding the rules of resentment.
- Slovenko, Ralph. Responsibility of the psychopath.