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Moral Competence and Mental Disorder

Radoilska, Lubomira V. (2023) Moral Competence and Mental Disorder. In: Kiener, M, ed. The Routledge Handbook of Responsibility. The Routledge Handbooks in Philosophy . Routledge, Abington, UK. E-ISBN 978-1-00-328224-2. (doi:10.4324/9781003282242) (KAR id:101448)


In this chapter, I explore moral competence as a central condition on moral responsibility. I distinguish two main conceptions. On the first, a morally competent agent is someone who knows right from wrong. On the second, a morally competent agent is someone who responds aptly to reasons. These two conceptions merit separate treatment as they offer different insights on how and why moral competence might be compromised. This distinction is of particular relevance since the chapter critically examines a standard assumption stating that whenever a mental disorder impacts moral competence, it decreases its scope (on the first conception) or precision (on the second). In close conversation with the memoir literatures on bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia, I argue that moral competence may also be affected by what looks like increases in scope or precision; moreover, neither impact – decrease or increase – necessarily undermines moral competence in and of itself; oftentimes, either could enhance it in a reliable way. Finally, by critically revisiting the ecological or scaffolding approach to moral responsibility, I show that moral competence is best understood as a practical way of knowing right from wrong embedded in daily routines and habits, and irreducible to propositional understanding or intellectual skills.

Item Type: Book section
DOI/Identification number: 10.4324/9781003282242
Uncontrolled keywords: habits; mental disorder; moral competence; moral responsibility; skills
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Department of Philosophy
Depositing User: Lubomira Radoilska
Date Deposited: 28 May 2023 13:23 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2023 10:31 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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Radoilska, Lubomira V..

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