Is Borderline Personality Disorder a Moral or Clinical Condition? Assessing Charland’s Argument from Treatment

Neuroethics 7 (2):215-226 (2014)
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Louis Charland has argued that the Cluster B personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder, are primarily moral rather than clinical conditions. Part of his argument stems from reflections on effective treatment of borderline personality disorder. In the argument from treatment, he claims that successful treatment of all Cluster B personality disorders requires a positive change in a patient’s moral character. Based on this claim, he concludes (1) that these disorders are, at root, deficits in moral character, and (2) that effective treatment of these disorders requires a sort of moral education rather than clinical intervention. In this paper, I evaluate the argument from treatment through a critical analysis of two psychotherapeutic interventions that have shown recent effectiveness against borderline personality disorder. I suggest that both Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and Mentalization-Based Treatment indicate that borderline personality disorder is, at root, a deficit in non-moral cognitive and emotional capacities. I suggest that these non-moral deficits obscure the expression of an otherwise intact moral character. In light of this, I conclude that effective treatment of borderline personality disorder requires primarily clinical intervention rather than moral edification
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