Edited by Jennifer Radden

in The Philosophy of Psychiatry

Published in print June 2004 | ISBN: 9780195149531
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199870943 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry


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This chapter argues that the conditions under the umbrella “personality disorders” actually constitute two very different kinds of theoretical entities. In particular, several core personality disorders are actually moral, and not medical, conditions. Thus, the categories that are held to represent them are really moral, and not medical, theoretical kinds. The chapter works back from the possibility of treatment to the nature of the kinds that are allegedly treated, revisiting 18th-century ideas of moral treatment along the way. The discussion closes with a reflection on how the ambiguous medical status of personality disorders and their treatment today is reminiscent of the ideological tug of war that pits alienist “mad doctors” like Pinel against their lay counterparts such as Tuke as they battled over who should be in charge of treating the mad.

Keywords: moral treatment; medical conditions; moral traits; moral conversion

Chapter.  6201 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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