The Processes of Believing, Mental Abnormalities, and Other Matters of the Mind
Where Do They Come From? What Are They Good For?
Keywords:belief, believing, brain function, neuropsychology, credition, fundamental mental process, meaning, meaning making, mental abnormality, mental disorders, religious experience, religious cognition, naturalism
Two categories of mental events – ecstatic or indescribable religious revelations and bizarre beliefs or behavior with related mental abnormalities – have been compared and contrasted in order to understand whether they are manifestations of different basic neural and psychological processes, or fundamentally the same. In popular terms, such comparisons point to the issue of the relationship between being religious and being mentally ill. McCauley and Graham (2020) have argued for a benign “maturational naturalism” (MN) as an over-arching concept to subsume and understand the two approaches. MN rests on the assumption that for purposes of understanding the processes that mediate any “matters of the mind,” it makes no difference whether they are labeled religious or not. All must be functions of maturationally natural processes, or else they would not occur. Whether they are labeled “religious” or “mental illness,” or whether an extra-world agent or spirit was involved, is left for others to discuss. There is a gap in their analysis, however: They refer to beliefs (religious, delusional, evidence-based), but do not adequately clarify the processes from which they spring or what believing is even for. The present article completes the picture by explaining the fundamental processes of believing that underpin all they say, and more. The keyword for the processes of believing is the term credition, a neologistic variant of credible or believable. This article elaborates how believing processes make possible religious, esoteric, and logical and evidence-based beliefs; where they come from and how they are constructed: and what they are good for, i.e., why humans do what is called believing at all.
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