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Recovering the Voice of Insanity:\ud A Phenomenology of Delusions

By OWEN EARNSHAW

Abstract

This thesis attempts to recover the voice of those termed ‘delusional’ and gives reasons why they should have a place in the ‘conversation of humanity’. It does this by challenging what I identify as a view of language use that I call the ‘monological (as opposed to dialogical) folk-scientific observer’ picture. I argue that it is the poverty of this picture that leads to the idea that delusions are empty speech acts, incomprehensible, or irrational and incorrigible false beliefs. These conceptions of delusions stand in the way of people labelled as ‘delusional’ being considered as competent partners in conversation. \ud In the place of such a picture, I draw analogies with poetical uses of language and outline a view of language as a means of organising experience. The experience of those classified as ‘insane’ is particularly chaotic and an ethical stance to them involves trying to imagine how their words can have sense. The thread that is followed throughout the thesis is that it is reciprocal trust that allows us to remain in a common sense orientation to the world and it is this that breaks down when people start to say things that are considered delusional. Trust provides an epistemic frame that rules out certain possibilities for making sense of the world. A breakdown in trust occurs because of a disruption of the person’s perceptions of salience which prevents the person from being attuned to interpersonal situations. \ud Following on from this depiction of delusions, it follows that re-establishing trust with the sufferer is crucial to overcoming delusions and that the stigma attached to being seen as ‘delusional’ can stand in the way of this. It is argued that the person’s existential stance can be understood as ironic and so an earnestly ironical approach to the person is ethically justified. \u

Topics: Delusions, Schizophrenia, Phenomenology, Trust
Year: 2011
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:3225
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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