This article critically examines Louis Charland’s claim that personality disorders are moral rather than medical kinds by exploring the relationship between personality disorders and virtue ethics. We propose that the conceptual resources of virtue theory can inform psychiatry’s thinking about personality disorders, but also that virtue theory as understood by Aristotle cannot be reduced to the narrow domain of ‘the moral’ in the modern sense of the term. Some overlap between the moral domain’s notion of character-based ethics and the medical domain’s notion of character-based disorders is unavoidable. We also apply a modified version of John Sadler’s “moral wrongfulness test” to borderline and narcissistic personality disorders. With respect to both diagnoses, we argue that they involve negative moral evaluations, but may also have indispensable nonmoral features and, therefore, classify legitimate psychiatric disorders.


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pp. 101-117
Launched on MUSE
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