Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 745-766

Can Evolution Explain Insanity?

  • D. MurphyAffiliated withDivision of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institution of Technology Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


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.


Adaptation Depression Evolutionary psychology Phobia Psychopathy