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  • In Defense of Estrangement
  • Garry Young (bio)

phenomenal experience, Capgras delusion, prosopagnosia, familiarity, mirror-image model

In response to my paper,"Clarifying 'Familiarity': Phenomenal Experiences in Prosopagnosia and the Capgras Delusion," Matthew Ratcliffe, as well as Lisa Bortolotti and Matthew Broome, provide insightful, and in places, intriguing commentaries. And although I do not agree with all of what they have had to say, I have nevertheless found many of their comments to be of value in developing and clarifying my own position. For my turn, I have chosen to reply to what I consider to be the most forceful points leveled against my account of the Capgras delusion, or should I say against those aspects of the patient's underlying phenomenal experience that I have argued form part of the condition.

Not Ordinarily: A Response to Ratcliffe

In "What Is a Feeling of Unfamiliarity?," Ratcliffe claims that my account is incomplete and that the what-it-is-likeness of preference presupposes identity. In response, I accept that my account, as presented, is incomplete but reject the claim that preference presupposes an understanding of distinct identities. As well as defending this position, I also comment briefly on aspect of Ratcliffe's own phenomenological account, which I feel, as he does, captures the spirit of my proposal.

Ratcliffe suggests that, for the Capgras patient to prefer his wife at t1 over his wife at t2, in a manner analogous to the findings of the forced choice tests recorded by Greve and Bauer (1990), the Capgras patient must already consider each to be distinct. Hence, different identities are presupposed not created. He also states that, as my account stands, preference alone is unable to create the sense of distinct identities, adding that a husband's preference for his wife at t1, compared with some other time, does not require that the wife be judged distinct on each occasion: for a change in preference "[does] not usually influence diachronic identity judgments" (XX). He illustrates this point with an example of a husband whose preference for his wife (gradually) changes as a result of a series of, shall we say, negative actions on her part. Ratcliffe correctly states that such a change in preference could occur without the husband experiencing the currently perceived wife (Wp) as different to his (fondly) remembered wife (Wr). This point is emphasized when he (again, correctly) adds that a preference for his wife at t1 is ordinarily associated with a change in some property (or properties) of the wife, or possibly some change in the husband, rather than as a result of a change in entity.

I accept that, ordinarily, preference does indeed presuppose identity, and that my preference for A [End Page 51] over B is based on my understanding that A and B are different; otherwise, my preference would be somewhat capricious. Equally, I accept that, ordinarily, a change in preference does not alter identity, such that if my preference for my wife (W) changed—let us say for reasons similar to those described by Ratcliffe—I would not consider W at t1 (the one I prefer) to be a different entity to W at t2. However, at the risk of understatement, we are not dealing with the ordinary or typical here. If, as common sense would dictate, we take it as read that W is the same entity on each occasion, with the same general properties, then any change in preference for W must be the result of some change in the husband. In the case of the Capgras delusion, the change is not gradual. Rather, it is my contention that it is caused, but not exclusively so, by specific neurological damage and consequent dysfunction. (As a slight side issue, I am not convinced that "change" is the best way to describe this process because it suggests that the subject is provided with a coherent reason or set of reasons for such a change, even if relatively vague such as "growing apart," which is not the case with the Capgras patient.) Importantly, part of the explanation for the Capgras patient's anomalous experience is that he recognizes W...


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