Mental Disorders Involve Limits on Control, not Extreme Preferences

In Matt King & Joshua May (eds.), Agency in Mental Disorder: Philosophical Dimensions. Oxford University Press (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

According to a standard picture of agency, a person’s actions always reflect what they most desire, and many theorists extend this model to mental illness. In this chapter, I pin down exactly where this “volitional” view goes wrong. The key is to recognize that human motivational architecture involves a regulatory control structure: we have both spontaneous states (e.g., automatically-elicited thoughts and action tendencies, etc.) as well as regulatory mechanisms that allow us to suppress or modulate these spontaneous states. Our regulatory abilities, however, are bounded. Mental illnesses, I argue, arise precisely where these bounds are reached, thus allowing inappropriate spontaneous states to regularly manifest in thought and action. I conclude that the volitional view of mental illness is wrong: when a person with mental illness reaches the limits of control, what they do often does not reflect what they most prefer.

Author's Profile

Chandra Sripada
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Analytics

Added to PP
2021-04-01

Downloads
762 (#17,995)

6 months
317 (#5,939)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?