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Moral and legal implications of the continuity between delusional and non-delusional beliefs 

Moral and legal implications of the continuity between delusional and non-delusional beliefs
Chapter:
Moral and legal implications of the continuity between delusional and non-delusional beliefs
Source:
Vagueness in Psychiatry
Author(s):

Ema Sullivan-Bissett

, Lisa Bortolotti

, Matthew Broome

, and Matteo Mameli

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198722373.003.0010

This chapter explores two aspects of gradualism as they apply to delusion: the acknowledgement that it is difficult to distinguish pathological from non-pathological beliefs; and the view that there is considerable continuity between delusional and other epistemically faulty beliefs. The chapter identifies implications of these two aspects of gradualism for questions about one’s moral and legal responsibility for actions motivated by delusions. Section 2 argues that an effective demarcation between pathological and non-pathological beliefs cannot be successfully achieved on mere epistemic grounds. Some reasons are offered for endorsing the thesis that delusional beliefs are continuous with other epistemically faulty beliefs. Section 3 examines the implications of the continuity thesis for the association between being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder featuring delusions and having reduced responsibility for actions motivated by delusions. Some interesting cases of agents who committed crimes related to the content of their epistemically faulty beliefs are considered.

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