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Psychiatry and the Concept of Evil: Sick in heart or sick in mind?

  • Herschel Prins (a1)
Extract

The Editor's initiative in seeking this Editorial was inspired no doubt by a number of recent cases and events in which the behaviour of those concerned seems to have defied rational explanation, and the power of ‘evil’ has been invoked in order to provide one. Perhaps the most compelling was that of the trial for murder of two ten-year-old boys for the murder of the infant James Bulger.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Professor H. Prins, 1 Home Close Road, Houghton on the Hill, Leicester LE7 9GT
Footnotes
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1.

Midgley offers a useful review of the topic from a moral philosopher's perspective. Peck (1988, 1989), combining the roles of pastor and psychiatrist, offers guidance at a more practical level. The theological perspective provided by Hick (1985) is highly regarded. Peterson (1992) has brought together a very interesting collection of papers, with contributions from theology, philosophy, and literature. All five books afford useful guidance for those wishing to pursue the subject further.

Footnotes
References
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Canter, D. (1994) Criminal Shadows: Inside the Mind of the Serial Killer. London: Harper Collins.
Fenwick, P. (1993) Brain, mind and behaviour. British Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 565573.
Fromm, E. (1977) The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Gale, A. (1994) Do we need to think a bit more about ethical issues? Bulletin of the Division of Legal and Criminological Psychology, March, 1622.
Gunn, J. (1991) Trials of psychiatry: insanity in the twentieth century. In The Mentally Disordered Offender (eds Herbst, K. R. & Gunn, J.), pp. 1736. London: Butterworth-Heinemann, in association with the Mental Health Foundation.
Gunn, J. (1994) Brain, mind and behaviour (letter). British Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 416.
Hick, J. (1985) Evil and the God of Love. London: Macmillan.
Midgley, M. (1985) Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay. London: Routledge.
Miller, H. (1970) The abuses of psychiatry. Encounter, 34, 5 May. (Quoted in Wootton, 1980.)
Peck, M. S. (1988) People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil. London: Rider.
Peck, M. S. (1989) The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth. London: Rider.
Peterson, M. L. (ed.) (1992) The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.
Prins, H. (1990) Bizarre Behaviours: Boundaries of Psychiatry. London: Routledge.
Prims, H. (1992) Literature as an aid to empathic response: Hamlet conditionally discharged? Journal of Forensic Psychiatry, 3, 8089.
Prims, H. (1993a) ‘Even a child is known by his doings$’. Probation Journal, 40, 188.
Prims, H. (1993b) Anti-social (psychopathic) personality disorders and dangerousness: two potentially dangerous concepts. In Personality Disorders Reviewed (eds Tyrer, P. & Stein, G.), pp. 305320. London: Gaskell.
Rows, D. (1994) Good news: bad news. The Psychologist, 7 (April), 157–60.
Sargant, W. (1973) The Mind Possessed: A Physiology of Possession, Mysticism and Faith Healing. Ashford: Headley Brothers.
Sims, A. (1986) Demon possession: medical perspective in a Western culture. In Medicine and the Bible (ed. Palmer, B.), pp. 165189. Exeter: Paternoster Press.
Stone, A. A. (1994) Revisiting the parable: truth without consequences. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 17, 7997.
Wootton, B. (1980) Psychiatry, ethics and the criminal law: fifty-third Maudsley Lecture. British Journal of Psychiatry, 136, 525532.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Psychiatry and the Concept of Evil: Sick in heart or sick in mind?

  • Herschel Prins (a1)
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