Week 4 The Concept of Evil in Forensic Psychiatry Journal Essay

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This week's journal allows you to consider James Knoll's (attached file) argument. As you read, be careful to distinguish between the historical background information and the position he takes. Summarize his argument in a paragraph.

Then consider the following questions:

  • What purpose does the lengthy historical overview serve in his overall argument?
  • How does his argument help us to understand Christine's decisions that build up to the novel's final scene?

Support the analysis with direct quotations and paraphrases from the article attachment and book in a 2 to 4 page critical response.

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Johnson & Wales Rubric for Written Competencies Category 5 = A: Excellent • Outstanding title and introduction including provocative thesis statement • Presents thoughtful ideas and develops them logically, fully and clearly • Support paragraphs present concrete, specific, relevant, representative evidence • Essay is unified and coherent, author’s tone is appropriate and consistent • Language is fresh, accurate, and appropriate for audience • Engaging style • Clear consideration for ethics • Definitive conclusion which reaffirms thesis • No major errors of syntax or mechanics • If appropriate-reputable/reliable references incorporated and cited with correct MLA documentation Category 4= B: Impressive • Clearly stated thesis/purpose included in a creative and effective introduction • Supporting details logically related to the central idea • Strong sense of organization, focus, and development which includes transitions, shows attention to phrasing and sentence variety • Language well suited for audience • Clear consideration for ethics • Distinct conclusion • Very few errors of syntax or mechanics • If appropriate-reputable/reliable references incorporated and cited with correct MLA documentation Category 3=C: Adequate • Clear statement of central idea or purpose • Some support if offered yet may not be as fully developed as necessary to present a convincing and logical argument that is unified and coherent • Evidence of three part structure, attention to appropriate language (occasionally, trite expressions may be found at this level) • Limited errors in syntax or mechanics • Presence of MLA documentation-if appropriate Category 2=D Minimal • Weak thesis statement, distinct introduction and conclusion paragraphs but too basic to be effective • Support paragraphs develop thesis statement but lack specific examples and details and sense of organization • Tone and language is generally consistent and appropriate to subject and audience, no transitions • Moderate number of errors of syntax or mechanics • Presence of documentation-if appropriate Category 1=F: Ineffective • Thesis statement not identifiable, no attempt at distinct introduction, support and conclusion paragraphs • Essay lacks unity, no evidence of transitions, tone and language is inconsistent and/or inappropriate for subject and audience • Major errors of syntax • Lacking documentation-if appropriate A N A L Y S I S A N D C O M M E N T A R Y The Recurrence of an Illusion: The Concept of “Evil” in Forensic Psychiatry James L. Knoll, IV, MD The author notes an increased interest in the concept of “evil” in the fields of psychiatry and psychology. In particular, there is some interest in defining and testifying about evil. It is argued that evil can never be scientifically defined because it is an illusory moral concept, it does not exist in nature, and its origins and connotations are inextricably linked to religion and mythology. Any attempt to study violent or deviant behavior under the rubric of this term will be fraught with bias and moralistic judgments. Embracing the term “evil” into the lexicon and practice of psychiatry will contribute to the stigmatization of mental illness, diminish the credibility of forensic psychiatry, and corrupt forensic treatment efforts. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law 36:105–16, 2008 Our commitment to this research is inspired by our confidence that we will assist the recognition and appreciation of goodness through the delineation of evil . . .—The Depravity Scale1 It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.—Sigmund Freud (Ref. 2, p 61) Interest in evil is growing. The psychological and psychiatric literature reflects steadily increasing attention to the concept of evil over the past two decades. Medline and PubMed searches using the phrases “the concept of evil in forensic psychiatry” and “evil and psychiatry” revealed significantly more relevant publications beginning in the early to mid 1990s than before this period. Although most of the relevant publications are from the field of social psychology, there has also been a growing interest in the field of psychiatry. Articles by Drs. Simon3 and Welner4 in this journal have debated whether forensic psychiatrists should define and testify about evil. While Simon cautions about the subjective moral judgment involved, Welner believes that “defining evil is only the latest frontier where psychiatry . . . will bring light out of darkness” (Ref. 4, p 421). Dr. Knoll is Associate Professor and Director of Forensic Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY. Address correspondence to: James L. Knoll, IV, MD, SUNY Upstate Medical University, 750 East Adams Street, Syracuse, NY 13210. E-mail: knollj@upstate.edu Nevertheless, attempts by behavioral science to define evil as though it were an objective and quantifiable concept are inherently flawed. Since evil is a subjective moral concept with inextricable ties to religious thought, it cannot be measured by psychiatric science. Moreover, there does not appear to be any significant need to define or use the term “evil,” as forensic psychiatry already has working concepts describing deviant behavior that is harmful to others. Testifying about illusory moral concepts may ultimately diminish our credibility as forensic scientists. Further, embracing “evil” as a legitimate psychiatric concept can have a detrimental effect on forensic treatment efforts. The purpose of this article is to argue against the acceptance of the term “evil” into the lexicon and practice of forensic psychiatry. The Illusion of “Evil” Evil is an entirely subjective concept created by humans, and there is nothing inherently evil in nature or the universe. Primitive cultures believed that natural calamities were manifestations of evil. It was in this way that humanity first began to personify adverse circumstances or tragedy so that they could attempt to master attendant anxiety. Yet in the formal structure of evolutionary theory and natural selection, there is no designation for evil.5 The relentless and often brutal manner of natural selection may Volume 36, Number 1, 2008 105 The Concept of Evil dispose us to a belief in so-called natural evil, while the reality is that this is nothing more than our own subjective interpretation. Further, our own interpretations are invariably ambiguous, culture-bound, and likely to evolve over time. The word evil has very ancient origins. It is “emotionally loaded, morally judgmental, full of brimstone and fire” (Ref. 6, p. 338). When evil is used to define an individual, it has a strongly damning consequence. The word evil inescapably invokes religious and mythological mind-sets, which were responsible for its origin.7 It summons the supernatural, the mystic, and the esoteric. Labeling someone as evil suggests that he or she is beyond redemption. Defining someone as evil also suggests that the person is permanently beyond human understanding, a sentiment that is contrary to scientific principles. Perhaps the most objective conclusion one could reach about evil is that it is a term associated with considerable linguistic ambiguity, with various meanings to different people.8 At best, the label evil is a mere subjective abstraction.9 Indeed, having it remain so obscured may serve a useful psychological purpose, that of disavowing any similarity with ourselves. When confronted with a group of “others,” history has shown our natural proclivity for falling into the trap of projection, which allows us to demonize our “enemies.” Further confounding the concept of evil is the conundrum: Evil from whose perspective? The victim’s perspective? The perpetrator’s? The layperson’s? All will be different, and all will simply consist of that individual’s subjective conception of how evil is portrayed. Biases and distortions can be expected to be the rule and not the exception. As Baumeister10 notes, the victim’s perspective is essential for a moral evaluation of the evil acts, but is ruinous for a causal understanding of them. Ultimately, viewing evil as a distinct or quantifiable concept is an illusion. The real causes of violent or harmful behavior are always different from the way people think of evil, because it is myth and illusion that provide the definition. Baumeister10 has termed this the “myth of pure evil,” and notes, “the face of evil is no one’s real face—it is always a false image that is imposed or projected on the opponent” (Ref. 10, p 62). In contrast, what is not illusory is man’s history of feeling justified in committing atrocities against individuals who are labeled evil. Herein lies one of the strongest cautions against em106 bracing a subjective moral concept and portraying it as science within the misplaced certainty of religious morality. To the best of our current and limited knowledge, people are led to commit acts of intentional harm by a complex interaction of biological, psychological, and social forces in concert with situational variables. One set of factors affects and is affected by the others and very likely cannot stand on its own. Behavioral science has made efforts to study objectively each of these factors, mostly in a reductionistic approach. In any individual case, the forensic psychiatrist must objectively weave them together in an accurate, coherent narrative. Before embracing an emotionally laden and morally judgmental term such as evil as a scientific concept, it is important to consider first whether doing so will advance our understanding of deviant or violent behavior. Second, we must consider whether forensic psychiatrists will be able to remove biased moral connotations of the term, particularly in the courtroom, so that ethical and objective testimony is proffered. This will be a difficult, if not impossible challenge, given the inherent predisposition of some courts to work in the opposite direction, as Gilligan has noted: There were times in the courtroom and prisons in which I did my work when I felt as though I had somehow been transported . . . back into the Middle Ages, when people still thought that evil (like its mythical embodiment and namesake, the devil) was an objective thing that actually existed independently of our subjective feelings and thoughts, rather than a word we all too often use to rationalize, justify, and conceal, from ourselves and others, our own violence toward those we hate and wish to punish [Ref. 11, p 14]. Resurrecting the Witches’ Hammer An ancient reaction to fear, distress, and calamity has been to rely on religion. “When cause and cure are unknown, magic and religion supply welcome hope” (Ref. 12, p 453). In biblical times, mental illness was seen as the opposite of what was “good.” During the Middle Ages, most progress in medical science was severely squelched. The Christian church, consumed with superstition and demonic possession, rode herd on the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. During the Renaissance, an obsession with evil in the form of witches became prominent. The official practice guidelines on detecting witches, the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), assisted in- The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Knoll quisitors in finding evil lurking amid women, the socially disenfranchised, and the mentally ill.13 The witch-hunting of the 15th and 16th centuries serves as a fascinating and sobering example of an official recognition of a hitherto unknown form of deviance.14 Once the crime of witchcraft was officially recognized, serious problems developed in providing “proof ” and legal restraints to the hysteria. The powerful legal and religious emphasis on the reality of witchcraft helped to reinforce the legitimacy of the trials, in addition to the public’s belief that there was evil afoot. It has been theorized that the English government’s systematic efforts for dealing with witchcraft served as a form of repressive deviance management. In addition, one of the benefits to church and state of the witch-hunting hysteria was that it effectively shifted public attention away from growing demands for more equitable redistribution of wealth.15 In retrospect, evil (in the form of witches) was nothing more than what the English legal system claimed that it was. Those who were found to be witches were often ill equipped and powerless to fend off this creative label of deviance. Once the definition of witchcraft was officially accepted, very little could be done to prevent or limit the system’s abuse of the term. As a result, large populations of “deviant” witches were discovered, particularly among vulnerable lower-class groups, which, in turn, fostered the growth of an “industry” revolving around the detection, prosecution, and punishment of witches. The industry included the proliferation of “rackets,” and entrepreneurs seeking to profit from its operation.14 The development of a profit-making deviance industry was perpetuated in cyclic fashion. The more rigorous the detection efforts, the higher the rates of deviance appeared to be, which then justified the use of more extreme measures of detection. However, it was well observed that forces other than economic ones had vested interests in defining and controlling deviance. Political, religious, and psychological interests have also been cited as playing significant roles.14 One of the lessons from the witchcraft hysteria in England was that once a definition of deviance has been officially sanctioned, the potential for abuse becomes virtually unlimited. While the example of witchcraft is one of an entirely invented form of deviance, it is the process of stigmatization and repressive control that merits present-day consideration. It requires no stretch of the imagination to consider how more modern notions of evil might be creatively imputed to those who are unable to ward off its powerful moralistic connotations. Indeed, it is hubris to conclude that we are beyond such societal dynamics, even today. Given the right setting and circumstances, a regressive return to a variety of analogous behaviors is distinctly within our repertoire of responses. Consider the example of present-day Russia. The unstable environment of post-Soviet society has been characterized by drastic social changes and societal insecurity. A therapist working in a boarding school for teens reported a startling return to the practices of various superstitions and witch persecution.16 The witch persecution was described as providing a socially sanctioned outlet for repressed anger, anxiety, and frustration. Exposing a witch among their peers helped them explain daily misfortunes and reaffirmed the boundaries between good and bad parts of the group. It is not difficult to comprehend how witch-hunting provides a way to personify and master life’s misfortunes in a socially sanctioned manner. It may be less obvious why some 15th- and 16th-century witchcraft theorists pursued their cause with such zealous passion. At that point in history, orthodox Catholicism was feeling pressure from naturalist philosophers and skeptics. These groups spurred a movement toward empirical validation and the notion that only matter exists.17 In this context, the zeal with which Kramer and Sprenger13 penned The Malleus can be seen as a desperate attempt to prove the existence of God and the legitimacy of the sacraments. Without proof that the devil and true evil exist, there can be no proof that God exists (Nullus deus sine diablo). Thus, the proof that witches existed helped to explain evil in the world, in addition to comforting those whose faith was challenged by science and the suffering inherent in life. It is a sobering fact that in the present day, more than 40 percent of Americans believe in demons, devils, and other superstitious concepts.18 Beliefs in evil as an objective force can be observed among many ordinary citizens. For example, individuals are quite ready to believe that Hitler’s personality or aura of evil can spread into his sweater, causing them to refuse to wear it.19,20 This is but one example of the tendency toward magical thinking in which material objects come to be seen as symbolic representations. Indeed, the distinction for many between the laws of Volume 36, Number 1, 2008 107 The Concept of Evil magical thinking and reality is dangerously ambiguous.21 At the present time, there do not appear to be any strong indicators that such thinking would be changed by attempts to “measure” or better define evil, even assuming that such attempts would provide meaningful results. The Resurgence of Evil as a Concept in Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology Over the past two decades, an explicit emphasis on evil has been developed by several respected social psychologists.10,22–25 However, even in these scientific contexts, the term is used inconsistently. More importantly, use of the term does not escape vagueness and biased connotations. Also, over the past several decades, there have been quite reasonable advances in the areas of neuroscience, psychology, and sociology that begin to address, in a scientific manner, the problem of violent and/or deviant behavior. Thus, one may be inclined to wonder why some forensic mental health professionals are “raising the spectre of some demonic force at work,” despite its regressive implications (Ref. 26, p 114). Indeed, might it not be irresponsible, given the fixed connotations of the term, its implications of untreatability and, dare I say it, the need for extermination? Then why do we find ourselves conjuring evil and summoning demons? Let us approach this question by examining Welner’s proclamation that legal relevance demands that we define and standardize evil. For the sake of this discussion, let us assume that what he alleges is true and that forensic psychiatrists across the country are experiencing pressure in the form of such demands from the justice system. Let us not stop here, but next explore what forces might be at play in stimulating the justice system to make these demands. Both the legal and forensic mental health literature inform us that we are in the midst of a punitive era of criminal justice.27,28 Rehabilitative efforts have been pruned away like so much dead wood. The number of incarcerated individuals in this country at the end of 2005 reached a record high at approximately 2.2 million,29 and there are no signs that the trend will reverse itself. Keeping the prevailing emphasis on punishment in mind, it is possible to discern some of the hypothetical pressures on forensic mental health professionals, vis-à-vis the justice system, to identify and root out evil. The societal forces at play in the evolu108 tion from the rehabilitative era to the punitive era have been discussed elsewhere, and I shall not repeat them here.30,31 What is of immediate interest are the forces that may be perpetuating society’s demands and, in turn, the justice system’s demands to focus on evil. For example, could there be other social forces at play beyond fear of predation and desire for retribution? It has been suggested that the United States may be in the midst of a moral panic, where radical measures are seen as reasonable and reassuring options.32,33 This is of little surprise during a period in which the politics of crime have been driven by fearinducing appeals to common-sense punitiveness.34 Such appeals have the allure of reducing the complex to a simple battle between good and evil. Thus, anxieties about moral relativism are concretely allayed. Adding to the urgency of the moral ...
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Running Head: JOURNAL REVIEW

1

Journal Review
Name
Institution

JOURNAL REVIEW

2
Journal Review
Purpose of Historical Overview

Evil has no solid scientific definition or explanation since evil is believed to originate
from religion and methodology based on moral illusions. Therefore, there is no existence of evil
since research into the issue is pre-based and influenced by moralistic judgment; therefore, an
individual cannot reach an impartial conclusion since evil deeds have been termed to be in
existence since way back. Moreover, individuals doing good and avoiding doing the bad has
been a motivation for many people, therefore, psychiatry has been greatly influenced by this
factor.
Notably, evil has been of help to avoid violent behavior since most violent deeds are
stimulated by evil. Moreover, defining evil is a standard setter of what is evil and what is not,
therefore, shaping the philosophical and theoretical definitions. Besides, it is of importa...

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Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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