Feeling and belief in the Capgras delusion

Matthew Ratcliffe

in Feelings of Being

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780199206469
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754470 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Feeling and belief in the Capgras delusion

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The aim of this and the next two chapters is to show how a phenomenological account of existential feeling can contribute to an understanding of anomalous experiences that occur in psychiatric illness. The current chapter is concerned with the Capgras delusion—the belief that one or more familiars have been replaced by impostors, who often take the form of ‘robots’ or ‘aliens’ (Ellis and Lewis, 2001, p.149). (For convenience, I will refer to the case of a ‘replaced spouse’ here.) In discussing recent explanations of the delusion, I draw out two assumptions that tend to characterize philosophical approaches to mental disorder more generally. First of all, experience or perception is construed as a kind of input system, through which perceptual contents are presented to a spectatorial subject. Second, it is maintained that conditions such as the Capgras delusion involve propositional attitudes with specific contents, which are formed by faulty or intact reasoning processes that act upon the products of perception. In contrast to such approaches, I argue that the delusion is a matter of changed existential feeling, involving a diminished sense of the personal. What might at first look like an isolated content (a replaced spouse) is in fact a much more encompassing change in the structure of experience. There may also be reasoning impairments but these too are embedded in a background of existential feeling, rather than coming after an anomalous experience.

Chapter.  11433 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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