Year 1: The History and Construction of the Problem
The first event aims to explore the history of the problem, and will be planned in collaboration with the ‘The Centre for the History of the Emotions’ (based Queen Mary, University of London). An important impetus for this series has come from the observation that numerous terms have been used over the past 200 hundred years to describe individuals who are viewed as so disturbed that their behaviour is a threat to the wellbeing of others. Yet at each stage the particular category used (whether it is ‘moral insanity’, ‘psychopathy’, sociopathy, moral imbecility, or ‘personality disorder’) have always been highly contested within both the legal and psychiatric professions over a 200 year period (Goldstein 1987, Pickersgill 2010, Werlinder 1978). Indeed, it might be argued that one of the common threads between the various diagnostic categories over time is that they have often received trenchant criticism from within both the legal and medical/psychiatric professions. This perhaps in part explains the changing terms and somewhat different premises of those terms. Despite the criticism and the variable support for these notions, categories of mental disorder that are defined in terms of moral or ‘antisocial’ behaviour have survived. It would appear that the pressure for these categories that has source, or sources, well outside of the medical or legal context. There is thus a pressing need for better understanding of the historical dimensions of this story to be better understood.
The second event will examine Philosophical perspectives on ASPD. The problem posed by notions of personality disorder have been subject to philosophical debate. The use of the term ‘moral insanity’ used in the 19th century points to the philosophical entanglement here. In a penal and legal context questions of free will and criminal responsibility continue to tax courts. Unfortunately the philosophical and ethical dimension is in danger of being submerged in the rush to find the most expedient medical fix. Dr Gwen Adshead, (formerly Consultant Psychiatrist and Forensic Psychotherapist at Broadmoor High Secure Hospital) and Dr Edward Harcourt (Geble College, Oxford University) have already agreed to speak at this event.
The third event in the first year will explore ‘The contemporary experience of ‘personality disorder’. We will do this by collaborating with the service user group Emergence (http://www.emergenceplus.org.uk/), with professional colleagues from National Personality Disorders Institute (based in the National Institute for Mental Health, Nottingham University: http://www.personalitydisorder.org.uk/research/national-personality-disorder-institute-pdi/), the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy (http://forensicpsychotherapy.com/) whose members have wide ranging experience of working psychosocially with young people and adults with these difficulties, as well as with academic colleagues from the Association for Psychosocial Studies.