Scrupulosity and Moral Responsibility

In Matt King & Joshua May (eds.), Agency in Mental Disorder: Philosophical Dimensions. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Scrupulosity is a form of OCD where patients obsess about morality and sometimes compulsively confess or atone. It involves chronic doubt and anxiety as well as deviant moral judgments. This chapter argues that Scrupulosity is a mental illness and that its distortion of moral judgments undermines, or at least reduces, patients’ moral responsibility. The authors go on to argue that this condition challenges popular deep-self theories of responsibility, which assert that one is only blameworthy or praiseworthy for actions that arise from one’s deep self, from what one truly values. Patients with ego-syntonic Scrupulosity, however, identify with their condition and seem to have cares that reflect their deep selves, yet do not seem fully responsible for their actions or their consequences, such as neglecting the needs of their loved ones. Other theories, particularly reasons-responsiveness theories, better capture the ways in which responsibility in Scrupulosity is reduced.

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