Not harmful delusions – an interpretation

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The aim of this article is to identify a characteristic of delusions: that which makes them pathological. It may appear a bit strange at first because one believes that delusions are just a pathological alteration of the mind. However, some authors have shown that although pathological delusions are the most studied, not all delusions have necessarily harmful consequences for the delirious subject or for others. Hence, it seems pertinent to question what makes delusions a pathological state. Although delusions are associated with several syndromes here I take mainly as a reference delusions that are related to the “Schizophrenia Spectrum and Other Psychotic Disorders” in the DSM 5 where they are described as “false beliefs”. Some authors think that delusions are in fact false beliefs and others that delusions are not beliefs but experiences. I also think that delusions are experiences and argue in favour of the Gallagher’s Multiple Realities (MR) model of delusions which is based on the phenomenology of Schütz. According to Schütz, everyday reality is not the only reality in which consciousness can be found. Developing an idea of William James, which states that in the Universe there are several "sub-universes", Schütz maintains that there are several realities which he calls "finite provinces of sense", each having a different cognitive style, to which a specific tension of consciousness belongs, a specific epoché, a prevailing form of spontaneity, a specific form of self-experience, a specific form of socialization, and a specific perspective of time. Gallagher develops the idea of Schütz and includes delusions as a reality along with other alternative realties as dream, fiction or science. However, I think the MR model is not incompatible with the “belief model” because beliefs could exist within the experience of delusional reality. After the exposition of the MR model I would try to explain why within this model one can understand that not all delusions are harmful for the subject or the others. The subject can enter into a different reality – such assomeone who is reading a novel and leaves the reality of the world around them – but this does not always have harmful consequences. Not because the subject ceases to carry the delusion into everyday reality, but because the content of this delusion could have positive consequences or at least not harmful consequences. In this way, one can explain, for example, some “mystical” delusions or some artistic creative delusions which seems not to have negative consequences even if there is confusion between everyday reality and delusion reality (according to MR model).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThird International Conference on Philosophy of Mind - School of Medicine, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
Duration: 11 Oct 201712 Oct 2017


ConferenceThird International Conference on Philosophy of Mind


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