Joel Feinberg

in Problems at the Roots of Law

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780195155266
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833177 | DOI:

Show Summary Details


This chapter considers the complexities arising from the fusion of moral and psychiatric norms. Although mental sickness is a traditional ground in both law and morality for the mitigation of culpability, it is seldom regarded now as a serious criminal defense. The present trend is to use the idea of sickness to condemn the behavior and aggravate culpability. Concerning the relation between sickness and wickedness, over time, these concepts have blurred together; both are complex and each contains elements of the other. By taking an historical approach, we see that concepts of mental illness and immorality first intermingled in the dialogues of Plato, who held that to have a morally bad character is to be out‐of‐kilter, a state that is difficult to distinguish from mental illness.

Keywords: culpability; morality; norms; Plato; psychiatry; sickness; wickedness

Chapter.  3335 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.