Moral Insanity as a Disorder of the Moral Sense

  • Jan VerplaetseEmail author

As far as name and symptoms, no mental disease has a closer connection to morality than the one psychiatrists called moral insanity, since it seems to be nothing more than a disorder of the moral sense, or a disease of the conscience. That is how it was sometimes looked upon. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Italian psychiatrist Cesare Agostini indeed defined moral insanity as “a permanent alteration of the moral sense,1 which he attributed to a deficiency in the “psycho-ethical centres” in the frontal lobe. However, moral insanity has not always been defined as an illness of the moral sense. As illustrated by the endless list of synonyms that were used in this context, psychiatric thought on moral insanity was much more complicated. In the 1950s, the American psychologist Karpman, who himself had invented the term anethopathy,wrote the following about moral insanity: “there is no nosological condition in the entire field of psychiatry on which there is so little agreement,...


Mental Hospital Moral Sense Moral Sentiment Mental Deficiency Moral Defect 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ghent UniversityGhentBelgium

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