The philosophy of behaviour disorders: Free will, moral responsibility and ADHD

Year: 2002

Author: Tait, Gordon

Type of paper: Refereed paper

One of the oldest problems in philosophy concerns the relationship between free will and moral responsibility. If we adopt the position that we lack free will, in the absolute sense-as have most philosophers who have addressed this issue-how can we truly be held accountable for what we do? This paper will contend that the most significant and interesting challenge to the long-standing status-quo on the matter comes not from philosophy, jurisprudence, or even physics, but rather from psychology. By examining this debate through the lens of contemporary behaviour disorders, such as ADHD, it will be argued that notions of free will, along with its correlate, moral responsibility, are being eroded through the logic of psychology which is steadily reconfiguring large swathes of familiar human conduct as pathology. The intention of the paper is not only to raise some concerns over the exponential growth of behaviour disorders, but also, and more significantly, to flag the ongoing relevance of philosophy for prying open contemporary educational problems in new and interesting ways.