A Philosophical Perspective on Ethics in Forensic Psychiatry

  • Ruth Macklin
Part of the Critical Issues in American Psychiatry and the Law book series (CIAP, volume 2)


Philosophy has traditionally sought to understand and explain all manner of cosmic and human phenomena. Yet to characterize philosophy in this way fails to distinguish it from scientific investigation and from other forms of humanistic inquiry. By the very nature of its activity, philosophy is a critical inquiry, seeking to provide standards for correct reasoning, for proper conduct, and for adequate evidence in support of every type of belief. In all these pursuits, different philosophical approaches—and there are many—are guided by principles. In offering standards for correct reasoning, philosophers use principles of deductive and inductive logic. In an effort to develop standards for proper conduct, philosophers have proposed moral principles, which are usually embedded in a larger ethical theory. And in asking what counts as adequate evidence in support of beliefs or claims to knowledge, philosophers employ epistemological principles that rest on a theory of knowledge: empiricism, rationalism, intuitionism, or some combination of these. Accordingly, a philosophical perspective on ethics in forensic psychiatry cannot be limited to moral concerns. It must also address modes of reasoning and standards of evidence accepted and employed by psychiatrists practicing in the forensic arena.


Forensic Psychiatry Moral Perspective Moral Conflict Civil Commitment Judicial Practice 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Macklin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and Social MedicineAlbert Einstein College of MedicineBronxUSA

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