, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 11–22 | Cite as

Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness: a Call for Nuance

  • Matt King
  • Joshua May
Original Paper


Does having a mental disorder, in general, affect whether someone is morally responsible for an action? Many people seem to think so, holding that mental disorders nearly always mitigate responsibility. Against this Naïve view, we argue for a Nuanced account. The problem is not just that different theories of responsibility yield different verdicts about particular cases. Even when all reasonable theories agree about what’s relevant to responsibility, the ways mental illness can affect behavior are so varied that a more nuanced approach is needed.


Free will Accountability Blame Excuse Psychopathology Mental disorders 



For helpful feedback on various drafts, we thank: Justin Caouette, Justin Clarke-Doane, Neil Levy, Kathryn Tabb, and Jesse Summers. A version of this paper was presented at a graduate seminar at Columbia University. Many thanks to Kathryn, Justin, and their thoughtful students for a profitable discussion that greatly shaped the final version of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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