Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 745–766

Can Evolution Explain Insanity?


DOI: 10.1007/s10539-004-2279-3

Cite this article as:
Murphy, D. Biol Philos (2005) 20: 745. doi:10.1007/s10539-004-2279-3


I distinguish three evolutionary explanations of mental illness: first, breakdowns in evolved computational systems; second, evolved systems performing their evolutionary function in a novel environment; third, evolved personality structures. I concentrate on the second and third explanations, as these are distinctive of an evolutionary psychopathology, with progressively less credulity in the light of the empirical evidence. General morals are drawn for evolutionary psychiatry.


AdaptationDepressionEvolutionary psychologyPhobiaPsychopathy

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© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Humanities and Social SciencesCalifornia Institution of Technology PasadenaUSA