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

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Ema Sullivan-Bissett, Lisa Bortolotti, Matthew Broome, Matteo Mameli

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVagueness in Psychiatry
EditorsGeert Keil, Lara Keuck, Rico Hauswald
PublisherOxford University Press
ChapterPart IV, chapter 10
ISBN (Print)9780198722373
Published3 Nov 2016


King's Authors


In this chapter we explore two aspects of gradualism about mental illness by arguing that it is difficult to distinguish pathological and non-pathological beliefs on the basis of their epistemic features, and by examining and ultimately defending the claim that there is no categorical difference between delusional and other epistemically faulty beliefs (what we shall call the continuity thesis). In section 2 we argue that no effective demarcation between pathological and non-pathological beliefs can be achieved on the basis of mere epistemic criteria and we appeal to considerations about the factors that influence belief formation. This supports the continuity thesis. In section 3 we consider some of the moral and legal implications of the continuity thesis, focusing in particular on the role of epistemically faulty beliefs in the attribution of moral responsibility and legal accountability for criminal actions that are motivated by those beliefs.

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