Is the impostor hypothesis really so preposterous? Understanding the Capgras experience
In his classic paper, “Delusional thinking and perceptual disorder,” Brendan Maher (1974) argues that psychiatric delusions are hypotheses designed to explain anomalous experiences, and are “developed through the operation of normal cognitive processes.” Consider, for instance, the Capgras delusion. Patients suffering from this particular delusion believe that someone close to them—such as a spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a child—has been replaced by an impostor: by someone who bears a striking resemblance to the “original” and who (for reasons unknown) is intent on passing herself off as that individual. On Maher's view, the “Impostor Hypothesis” is the response of a rational agent to the anomalous experience it is invoked to explain. Recently, a number of philosophers have argued that Maher's analysis of delusion doesn't work when applied to the Capgras delusion. In this paper, I defend Maher's analysis against these arguments. However, my aim is not merely to defend Maher's analysis, but also to draw attention to some of the methodological problems that have led to its hasty dismissal.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 01 December 2009