Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence

By Lawrie Reznek | Go to book overview

11

CHARACTER CHANGE AS AN EXCUSE

DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE

In Robert Louis Stevenson's story, Dr Jekyll recognizes that he has both a good and an evil side. He believes that if he can free his good character from the burden of restraining his evil impulses, his humanitarian work will be unhindered. He creates a potion so that his evil side can emerge unfettered in the evenings, leaving his good side to be productive during the day. We all know the rest. The potion frees his evil side in the form of Hyde who commits a series of offences. It is not that Hyde is clinically deranged-he knows what he is doing and is in control of his impulses. He simply takes delight in doing others harm. Hyde is the same person as Jekyll but they are not the same character. They share the same body and memory, thereby satisfying both physical and psychological criteria for personal identity (Williams, 1973). But they are different characters in that they do not share the same values, emotions, and attitudes.

A person's character consists in the set of dispositions that explain enduring patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. Someone is selfish, for example, if he is disposed to think only of himself, to feel little for others, and to pursue only his own interests. Someone is obsessional if he feels threatened by chaos, and takes active steps to impose excessive order on his world. A person's moral character consists in the set of dispositions that explain his ethical beliefs, his moral sentiments, and ethical conduct. Obsessionality is not part of a person's moral character, whereas selfishness is. This is because the disposition to be obsessional does not impact on others, whereas selfishness does.

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Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - A History of Criminal Responsibility 15
  • 2 - A Taxonomy of Defences 38
  • 3 - Ignorance as an Excuse 61
  • 4 - Compulsion as an Excuse 75
  • 5 - Automatism as an Excuse 93
  • 6 - The Justification of Excuses 115
  • 7 - Causality as an Excuse 135
  • 8 - The Reductionist Theory 152
  • 9 - Irrationality as an Excuse 173
  • 10 - The Concept of Disease 200
  • 11 - Character Change as an Excuse 223
  • 12 - The Clash of Paradigms 246
  • 13 - The Insanity Defence in Practice 266
  • Conclusion 295
  • Bibliography 311
  • Index 322
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