Delusions and Not-Quite-Beliefs

Neuroethics 5 (1):29-37 (2011)
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Bortolotti argues that the irrationality of many delusions is no different in kind from the irrationality that marks many non-pathological states typically treated as beliefs. She takes this to secure the doxastic status of those delusions. Bortolotti’s approach has many benefits. For example, it accounts for the fact that we can often make some sense of what deluded subjects are up to, and helps explain why some deluded subjects are helped by cognitive behavioral therapy. But there is an alternative approach that secures the same benefits as Bortolotti’s account while bringing additional benefits. The alternative approach treats both many delusions and many of the non-pathological states to which Bortolotti compares them as in-between states. Subjects in in-between states don’t fully believe the beliefs which it is sometimes convenient to ascribe to them. This alternative approach to belief and belief-ascription fits well with an independently attractive account of the varied purposes of our ordinary attitude ascriptions. It also makes it easier to make fine-grained distinctions between intentional attitudes of different kinds

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Maura Tumulty
Colgate University