The copyright line for this article was changed on 14 May 2015 after original online publication.
Psychopathology and the Ability to Do Otherwise
Version of Record online: 8 APR 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LLC.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Volume 90, Issue 1, pages 135–163, January 2015
How to Cite
Pickard, H. (2015), Psychopathology and the Ability to Do Otherwise. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 90: 135–163. doi: 10.1111/phpr.12025
- Issue online: 5 JAN 2015
- Version of Record online: 8 APR 2013
When philosophers want an example of a person who lacks the ability to do otherwise, they turn to psychopathology. Addicts, agoraphobics, kleptomaniacs, neurotics, obsessives, and even psychopathic serial murderers, are all purportedly subject to irresistible desires that compel the person to act: no alternative possibility is supposed to exist. I argue that this conception of psychopathology is false and offer an empirically and clinically informed understanding of disorders of agency which preserves the ability to do otherwise. First, I appeal to standard clinical treatment for disorders of agency and argue that it undermines this conception of psychopathology. Second, I offer a detailed discussion of addiction, where our knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning the disorder is relatively advanced. I argue that neurobiology notwithstanding, addiction is not a form of compulsion and I explain how addiction can impair behavioural control without extinguishing it. Third, I step back from addiction, and briefly sketch what the philosophical landscape more generally looks like without psychopathological compulsion: we lose our standard purported real-world example of psychologically determined action. I conclude by reflecting on the centrality of choice and free will to our concept of action, and their potency within clinical treatment for disorders of agency.