|Abstract||Although well-documented, delusions have proved extremely hard to explain, and many important questions remain open, including the basic one of what kind of mental state a delusion is. The standard position is that delusions are beliefs (the doxastic conception); but there are difficulties for this view, and alternative characterizations have been offered. In this chapter I shall propose a new framework for conceptualizing delusions, building on recent work in philosophy of psychology and cognitive science. There are good reasons for thinking that the term ‘belief’ is commonly used to refer to two different types of mental state, located at different levels. This view harmonizes with work in the psychology of reasoning, where many researchers now endorse some form of dual system theory. I shall outline what is, I believe, the most attractive version of this two-level view and show how it offers an account of delusions that explains our competing intuitions about their status. The chapter is in four sections. The first introduces the doxastic conception and its problems. The second distinguishes the two levels of belief, and argues that delusions, if they are beliefs at all, belong to the second. The third section offers an account of second-level belief, according to which it is a species of a broader mental type, acceptance, which is dependent on attitudes at the first level. The fourth section proposes that delusions are acceptances, some of which fall within, and some without, the narrower class of secondlevel beliefs, and the chapter concludes with some reflections on the implications of this view. Throughout, I shall focus on monothematic delusions, rather than the elaborate polythematic kind, and use simple, schematic examples. This is not because I think it is unimportant to pay attention to the diversity of delusions and the detail of clinical observation (far from it). Rather, it reflects the modest aim of the chapter, which is to propose a hypothesis for subsequent elaboration and evaluation..|
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