Thought experiment:

Someone is isolated in a cell (small world) and she is familiar with scientific method. She suffers from a mental condition involving hallucinations. The problem is her hallucinations are consistent. No matter what experiment she conducts, the result is consistent with her hallucinations (no insight).

If other people are added into the cell, they all agree that some believes held by our subject are delusions. So she suspects about her mental health based on consensus of other people.

Now what if the others are not consistent in their believes? Which one our thought experiment subject should accept as reality: her consistent outlier believes or the others inconsistent ones?

  • What does it mean to have illusions? – Cell Nov 29 '19 at 20:22
  • @Cell: Misperception of perceived sensory signal. Actually hallucination (lack of external stimuli) works better for my example (unique to patient) so the question edited. Auditory hallucination: Something patient can hear but no one else. Visual hallucination: Something patient can see but no one else. – Xaqron Nov 29 '19 at 21:58
  • If other people agree that her beliefs are delusions that result is not consistent with her hallucinations. And how do you know that they are hallucinations? If we are adding a God figure that knows all to the picture then it is up to him to sort it out. What she should do in the absence of divine intervention has little to do with "reality". She should do whatever works best for her, and that depends on how much she needs other people. For practical purposes, incoherent compromises are just fine. – Conifold Nov 30 '19 at 0:05
  • Explain what insight is. Readers might not know. – Mark Andrews Nov 30 '19 at 18:31
  • @MarkAndrews: Awareness of a patient of her mental situation is called insight. Like John Nash at the end of A Beautiful Mind movie (peer checking new people he met by old fellows). – Xaqron Nov 30 '19 at 18:50

I would rather say it's a matter of objectivity and universality. A psycotic person may be notably disconnected from reality, from a reality that people around agree on and that is described, consistently and with a very wide consensus, in books and scientific pappers. We thus understand the psyco's dellusional reality as contained into a more universal, objective reality; it's not that the psyco is wrong and we are right, it's that we know more - doctors may help the psyco to take command, to go beyond subjectivity. And maybe a few alien beings, or even just one, could help the whole human race to overcome collective delusions we all agree on.

  • Thanks. "objectivity and universality" ends up at you vs others so "consensus vs consistency". And "scientific papers" according to this lectures when published in top scientific magazines about 50% are wrong. So I'm really confused how far someone can go with consistency when it is against consensus. – Xaqron Nov 30 '19 at 4:21
  • Well, strictly speaking all scientific theories are potentially wrong. Reality is not something that could be logically established, it's not a truth, there's no true theory of reality; but Einstein's gravity is more universal than Newton's. – Daniel Nov 30 '19 at 15:10

Presumably since your subject's hallucinations are consistent she cannot distinguish them from reality and she has no reason to think they are actually hallucinations except that they do not accord with her cellmates beliefs.

If your subject were to talk to a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist would attempt to pare away any superfluous beliefs, (thus 'shrinking' her reality to a stable core). This is quite reasonable for disabusing the subject of truly unfounded beliefs.

If your subject's interior dialog is sufficiently developed, that should be her highest contact with reality. If she doesn't understand the strange beliefs of her cellmates she should perhaps read some psychology and anthropology to understand the basis of tribal belief systems.

As for distinguishing reality from actuality, your subject's cognitive interaction with actuality creates her reality. This is subjective reality, but then all realities are subjective. This goes back to Suarez and Kant.

The level of reality generated by interaction with actuality is exceeded by the level of reality generated by self-actualised rationalisation, which Heidegger calls the event.

  • Subject's barrier to accept her situation is other's inconsistency. Her choices are giving up her consistency and being accepted as a member of sane inconsistent people or keep her believes and living a life of solitude as an insane. That brings up saneness as a matter of consensus. Galileo backed off from his idea, Changeling (2008) movie subject ended up in asylum, Stonehearst Asylum (2014) movie patients ran asylum better than physicians... are examples that makes it hard for subject to choose. – Xaqron Dec 1 '19 at 15:37
  • In George Orwell's novel 1984, Winston Smith had to hide his rationality (sanity) from the consensus view. However, that consensus view was consistent: "war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength". – Chris Degnen Dec 1 '19 at 16:19
  • In a thicket of views Buddha told the sutta: On Views. "That brahman who does not grasp at a view, with what could he be identified in the world?" Such an attitude avoids contention of beliefs. – Chris Degnen Dec 1 '19 at 16:22
  • If she has deeply considered her beliefs, and their basis, so that they are more than mere 'beliefs', and presumably have experiential support, even considering phenomena like false-memory theory, then "keeping her believes and living a life of solitude" should not involve sanity/insanity. – Chris Degnen Dec 1 '19 at 18:26
  • Very informative comments, thanks. – Xaqron Dec 1 '19 at 18:47

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