Moral insanity

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

MORAL INSANITY, med. jur. A term used by medical men, which has not yet acquired much reputation in the courts. Moral insanity is said to consist in a morbid perversion of the moral feelings, affections, inclinations, temper, habits, and moral dispositions, without any notable lesion of the intellect, or knowing and reasoning faculties, and particularly without any maniacal hallucination. Prichard, art. Insanity, in Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine
     2. It is contended that some human beings exist, who, in consequence of a deficiency in the moral organs, are as blind to the dictates of justice, as others are deaf to melody. Combe, Moral Philosophy, Lect. 12.
     3. In some, this species of malady is said to display itself in an irresistible propensity to commit murder; in others, to commit theft, or arson. Though most persons afflicted with this malady commit such crimes, there are others whose disease is manifest in nothing but irascibility. Annals D'Hygiene tom. i. p. 284. Many are subjected to melancholy, and dejection, without any delusion or illusion. This, perhaps without full consideration, has been judicially declared to be a "groundless theory." The courts, and law writers, have not given it their full assent. 1 Chit. Med. Jur. 352; 1 Beck, Med. Jur. 553 Ray, Med. Jur. Prel. Views, Sec. 23, p. 49.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
Prichard's definition of moral insanity aligns well with Georgina's conduct throughout James's story, although the cases Prichard cited to illustrate the condition do not, focusing as they do on changes in personality in response to external traumas, rather than on constitutional abnormal tendencies.
After all, what could be a greater lesson of existential philosophy for mankind to contemplate than this abject spectacle of moral decadence: the miraculous descendents of the so-called Immaculate Victims, the iconic survivors of the Holocaust, sinking fast and deep, after just a little bit more than a half century of their near-extermination, in the abysses of moral insanity, exuding the same venom of hysterical racism, blind arrogance and illusionary superiority that once galvanized, to the point of madness, their Nazi butchers and enticed them to seek their total annihilation.
alienists as "moral insanity" or "moral imbecility."
People with moral insanity cannot really understand the motives of normal people and must guess their reactions.
moral insanity, synonymous with an "instinct" that inhered in every man and that was a shared inheritance with the animals.
to feminist mad pragmatist contributors in Part Three, to expose the moral insanity of WMD.