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A Note on Moral Insanity and Psychopathic Disorders

  • F. A. Whitlock (a1)
Extract

Despite a good deal of argument to the contrary (Maughs, 1941; Hunter and Macalpine, 1963; Walk, 1954; Walk and Walker, 1961; Craft, 1965; Whitlock, 1967) it is still commonly believed that Prichard's ‘moral insanity’ (1835) was the forerunner of our present-day concept of psychopathic (sociopathic) personality; the most recent example of this appearing in the paper by Davies and Feldman (1981), who write: ‘In 1801 Pinel described a condition termed by him manie sans délire, the notable feature of which was that the sufferer showed bouts of extreme violence but with no signs of psychosis … Prichard confirmed Pinel's observation and coined the term “moral insanity” which led to “a marked perversion of the natural impulses”.’ A number of modern textbooks (Sim, 1974; Friedman et al, 1975; Slater and Roth, 1977; Trethowan, 1979) also appear to regard moral insanity as the precursor of psychopathic disorder, although Trethowan correctly noted how the word ‘moral’ denoted ‘affective’ and was not being used in the usual ethical sense. He went on, however, to write that Prichard described cases showing antisocial or even criminal behaviour.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
References
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Battie, W. (1758) A Treatise on Madness. London: Whiston and White.
Craft, M. (1965) Ten Studies into Psychopathic Personality, pp. 79. Bristol: John Wright.
Davies, W. & Feldman, P. (1981) Diagnosis of psychopathy by forensic specialists. British Journal of Psychiatry, 138, 329–31.
Friedman, A., Kaplan, H. I. & Sadock, B. J. (1975) Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 2nd Edition, p. 1287. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
Hadfield, J., case of (1800) 27 State Trials. 1281.
Hunter, R. & Macalpine, I. (1963) Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry, pp. 836–39. Oxford University Press.
Leigh, D. (1961) The Historical Development of British Psychiatry, pp. 172–84. Oxford: Pergamon.
Maudsley, H. (1874) Responsibility in Mental Disease. London: Henry S. King.
Maughs, S. (1941) Concepts of psychopathy and psychopathic personality: Its evolution and historical development. Journal of Criminal Psychopathology, 2, 329; 426.
Pinel, P. (1801) A Treatise on Insanity. Trans. 1806 by Davies, D. D., Republished 1962, pp. 150–56. New York: Hafner.
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Prichard, J. C. (1847) On the Different Forms of Insanity in Relation to Jurisprudence. London: Hippolyte Baillière.
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Scott, P. D. (1960) The treatment of psychopaths. British Medical Journal, i, 1641–46.
Sim, M. (1974) Guide to Psychiatry, 3rd Edition, p. 429. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Skae, D. (1863) A rational and practical classification of insanity. Journal of Mental Science, 9, 309–19.
Slater, E. & Roth, M. (1977) Clinical Psychiatry, 3rd Edition, p. 56. London: Baillière Tindall and Cassell.
Trethowan, W. H. (1979) Psychiatry, 4th Edition, p. 273. London: Baillière Tindall.
Tuke, D. H. (1885) Moral and emotional insanity. Journal of Mental Science, 31, 174; 366.
Tuke, D. H. (1892) Dictionary of Psychological Medicine, pp. 813–16. London: Churchill.
Walk, A. (1954) Some aspects of the ‘moral treatment’ of the insane. Journal of Mental Science, 100, 809.
Walk, A. & Walker, D. L. (1961) Gloucester and the beginnings of the RMPA. Journal of Mental Science, 107, 609–11.
Whitlock, F. A. (1967) Prichard and the concept of moral insanity. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1, 7279.
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A Note on Moral Insanity and Psychopathic Disorders

  • F. A. Whitlock (a1)
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