Autonomy and Mental Disorder

Oxford University Press (2012)
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Abstract

Autonomy is a fundamental though contested concept both in philosophy and the broader intellectual culture of today’s liberal societies. For instance, most of us place great value on the opportunity to make our own decisions and to lead a life of our own choosing. Yet, there is stark disagreement on what is involved in being able to decide autonomously, as well as how important this is compared to other commitments. For example, the success of every group project requires that group members make decisions about the project collectively rather than each on their own. This disagreement notwithstanding, mental disorder is routinely assumed to put a strain on autonomy; however, it is unclear whether this is effectively the case and, if so, whether this is due to the nature of mental disorder or the social stigma that often attaches to it. This book is the first exploration of the nature and value of autonomy with reference to mental disorder. By reflecting on instances of mental disorder where autonomy is apparently compromised, it offers a systematic discussion of the underlying presuppositions of the present autonomy debates in philosophy and psychiatry. In so doing, it helps address different kinds of emerging scepticism questioning either the appeal of autonomy as a concept or its relevance to specific areas of normative ethics, including psychiatric ethics.

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Lubomira Radoilska
University of Kent

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