A gentleman was chatting with me the other day and suddenly right out of the blue said, “Please don’t think I am delusional.” I was surprised at the gentleman’s assumption that I would think such. And I wondered whether he had been accused in the past of being delusional. After all, I have previously noticed individuals attacking the person instead of the idea by using the logical fallacy of calling the person (that they were in disagreement with), “delusional.” Such name calling and mud-slinging is effective, even though the technique extends outside the bounds of logical discourse.
Should the average person be worried about being delusional, as the gentleman (above) appeared to be?
If my daughter-in-law was tested on her general attitudes and opinions, I suspect she would be found to be a perfect example of someone who has the perspective that can be classified as the Average American’s. Now, can she be said to be delusional? Well, for the sake of clarification, I guess first we should find out precisely what the meaning of the word is.
According to the definition given in the WordNet database, delusional is defined as “Suffering from or characterized by delusions.” And delusion is defined as 1. “(psychology) an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary,” which means that if the psychologist happens to be Muslim and the patient happens to be Christian, then the patient is delusional. Or vise versa, if the psychologist happens to be Christian and the patient Muslim, then the patient would be delusional because he would deny any evidence that the psychologist may provide in support of Christianity. Or another example, supposing the psychologist happened to be communist and the patient anti-communist, then the patient would be delusional for rejecting any argument given against the “free-market” system and/or in support of communism. In other words, no doubt a psychologist somewhere would be able to diagnose my daughter-in-law as delusional to a certain degree. Of course, this is not saying no patient exists who doesn’t have hallucinations and the delusion that would follow as a result. But the potential for a psychologist to diagnose as a result of personal or common misconceptions does exist.
Definition 2 of delusion is, “A mistaken or unfounded opinion or idea.” In this case everyone can be considered “delusional” because to err is human. At least some of our “personal” ideas and opinions are “unfounded” or mistaken.
Definition 3 of delusion is, “The act of deluding; deception by creating illusory ideas.” And again in this case too we could all be considered delusional, because we’ve all at one time or another been subjected to illusory ideas. Advertising is but one small example.
So there you have it. Yes, my daughter-in-law is delusional. But she is in good company, because by definition, we all are.
Oh, but I guess I ought to add that if someone accuses you of being “delusional,” yet that person refuses to use the rules of logic to enter into a public or private debate with you concerning the supposed “delusion,” then chances are, because the person refused to take your argument into consideration, the person is more delusional than you.
One last point: From a scientific perspective, no one “chooses” what to believe and what not to believe. Perception, which includes the individuals systems of belief, is the result of developmental causality. That is to say, perception, in a sense, grows within the individual’s brain. And then choices are made in accordance to that perception, not the other way around. Therefore, to say that a person has an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary is presupposing the person could be otherwise than they are. It is presupposing duality. It is a remnant of our ignorant past.