Here’s another guest post by Bet On It reader Bogusław Kołodziej, inspired by my “Economics of Szasz" (Rationality and Society, 2006). I’ll reply in a week or so.
Hi, sorry for bothering you with the same subject over and over again, but the schizophrenia skepticism topic seems really fascinating to me, and I guess that some arguments for our view could be improved.
Regarding this argument, I wanted to add some analogy that might come in handy while talking with people who don't understand it. Namely, when an electrical device is malfunctioning, you expect random noise, distorted unintelligible sound, random shapes, etc. If a shadow person appears on a screen of your computer, or if there's a text message of CIA telling you they're following you, it's 99.99999 percent chance it's actually intentional (joke, or the computer owner is just being an attention seeking fraud, or maybe it's even actually CIA). If this epistemic approach works for electrical devices, why shouldn't it for the brain?
There's also a very interesting and extremely convenient, oh how convenient coincidence that the hallucinations symptom goes hand in hand with delusions (sometimes it's just the second one). Delusions, a.k.a. saying things that are obviously not true. So you're saying that people who say things that are obviously not true, also happen to often report having hallucinations. What if maybe, just maybe, reports of hallucinations are one of the obviously not true things.
If hallucinations were a regular malfunction of a brain, we would expect at least some people having hallucinations, like, let's say, a 100% reasonable reliable person saying they see a demon standing in front of them. Imagine a person like Mike Huemer waking up one day and saying with his calm thoughtful voice, "You know guys, I see Wendigo in front of me all the time, I know it's not real, but this visual sensation is kinda spooky and irritating, I want to get healed." Of course, there are some illnesses with two symptoms that always go in pairs, but the sheer convenience of this concomitance is suspicious.
One of the better arguments in your discussion with Scott Alexander was his LSD agonist and antagonist sciency speak. That was the only fragment of the discussion in which you seemed to "get owned" by Scott. You did address it in some way, but it was suboptimal, in my humble opinion. You could say that, even without knowing the sciency neurochemistry smart talk, one can easily say that Scott's argument would be good only if LSD induced hallucinations didn't have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with the average schizophrenic hallucination. Does this look like something that a schizophrenic person would report:
And yes, some LSD consumers do say stuff about seeing aliens, God and demons and agents, etc., but after watching the video, and knowing that pretty much everybody says it's an accurate representation of LSD trip, I can say with certainty that those LSD takers overinterpret random shapes they see.
The last thing I'd like to add would be my personal anecdote. I don't know any broad empirics on that, but my examples are still really telling. My brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But he clearly has delusions, and sometimes tells about seeing stuff. He obviously has all the symptoms of bipolar. My father's uncle, on the other hand, supposedly had schizophrenia, but used to behave like somebody with bipolar, that is he was extremely impulsive, talkative, overly active, was talking non stop, etc.
The fact that these three symptoms seem to be so correlated seems to indicate they have a root cause. As you said, naming the root cause "chemical imbalance" doesn't lead us anywhere, because all our behavior is caused by the brain. And, again, that would be a massive coincidence that the part of the brain responsible for not having hallucinations, delusions and not being overly active, were located in the exact same place. Well, what can that root cause be... My theory is that most people learn at some point in their lives that they should respect social conventions, like don't talk all the time about nonsensical bullshit, don't make up stuff, don't walk in the middle of the night through the city singing about your religious experience, etc. People who refuse to learn those things might just be diagnosed with random labels. That the part of the brain responsible for respecting social rules by controlling our universal human impulses is in the exact same part of the brain is much more likely, in my opinion.
If some of these arguments sound similar to your point in "Economics of Szasz," then sorry; I did read it, but your arguments against schizophrenia that I remember were the "metaphorical speech argument" and "choosing your beliefs argument."
As someone who's had acute psychosis, I think the discussion here is profoundly silly.
This remark got my goat in particular: "So you're saying that people who say things that are obviously not true, also happen to often report having hallucinations. What if maybe, just maybe, reports of hallucinations are one of the obviously not true things." This is like the musings of a ten-year-old flat-earther. Who needs to learn medicine or neuroscience when you can just speculate about how the brain works?
Great post. Honestly don't understand why the hallucinations and delusions are so difficult for people to understand. Psychiatry gives them fancy names like delusions or hallucinations, but they are really just self-reported imaginings. People report seeing weird things all the time, ghosts, goblins, UFOs, Jesus, aliens. It's so frequent that it really needs to be considered a normal part of the human experience. And when people are polled, typically more than half of the people polled openly admit to seeing things that other people don't see or to hearing things that other people don't. Look up Jim Van Os and his research on schizophrenia on YT. These are just normal human experiences that other people find annoying.
Typically the problem is not with the schizophrenic but it's the problem is the schizophrenic family. They get sick of hearing the annoying stuff the "schizophrenic" does and says that are weird and outside of social norms.