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The start of the chapter is a description of apoplexy and paralysis, accompanied by an observation that the underlying neurological causes of these afflictions are often unable to be identified by autopsy. The general description appears to conform with what would be categorized today as a stroke. apoplexy Ray asserts that mental impairment is common following the development of either condition. The manifestation he describes as most common is “diminution of intellectual powers” and “general intellectual enfeeblement.” A careful point is made to distinguish between understanding language and concepts, as in the case of a will. In the chapter example, a man may understand that he has property and that a buyer is offering to buy it, but may have no appreciation for wether or not the offer is reasonable. The possible consequence of labile emotions is also noted, as well as the variable course of what sounds like TIA vs stroke.


Due to impending deadlines for a number of papers and a presentation, I will be taking a hiatus from the regular postings. Please contact me through the contact sheet above if you would like to join the reading group.

Chapter 7 – Moral Mania

Ray describes Moral Mania, and concedes that “Affective Mania” may be just as reasonable a term. He describes a number of “monomanias,” including kleptomania, pyromania, nymphomania / satyriasis, and homicidal mania. The chapter, and the changes between the first and fifth editions especially, seem to frame the entire subject in a defensive mode. The concern of critics of this line of thinking is that allowing the crime to define the illness is a slippery slope. 466px-Isaac_Ray.jpg

From the chapter (in the fifth edition), Ray responds:

The essential question is, not whether the intellect is impaired, but whether the affective powers are so deranged as to overpower any resistance made by the intellect. It is a matter of relative power, and hence it is quite immaterial whether the result proceeds from impaired intellect, or irresistible activity of the affective powers. To say, in reply, all crime proceeds from this inordinate force of the passions and propensities, overpowering the conscience and judgment, is only to utter a truism entirely irrelevant to the real question at issue, which is, whether this predominance of the moral over the intellectual is, or is not, the result of disease? A stronger objection consists in the difficulty of distinguishing sometimes between ordinary depravity and the impulses of disease, — a difficulty we are not disposed to ignore. But the difficulty of drawing the line between the two classes of phenomena does not prove, certainly, that there is no difference between them.

Ray provides some case examples in which he lays out behaviors that do not appear to have clear motives or benefits, and which are often out of character with the way the subject lives the rest of their lives. he provides this as background evidence for his supposition that regardless of how we classify these offenders, their pattern of behavior is quite distinct from the career criminal. Some of the examples, however, seem less clear cut than Ray appears to interpret them.

The description of Intellectual Mania appears to encompass modern notions of mania with and without psychosis, as well as psychosis not related to affect. Ray cites Hoffbauer in elucidating the difference between illusive sensations (or illusions) and hallucinations, both of which retain their modern distinctions. The illusion is a misperception of a real object of event, whereas the hallucination lacks external perceptual cues. The thrust of this discussion is that the number of senses implicated in the false impression are far less important than the disordered thought that accompanies them; the illusions or hallucinations need not be present at all. He references Locke’s notion that the delusional may arrive at correct conclusions from inaccurate assumptions and takes issue with it noting “nothing could be further from the truth.” The more common scenario presented is that the assumptions, logic, and conclusions are all equally nonsensical.

The distinction of “moral mania” vs. “intellectual mania” is presented in section 101. He draws a clear distinction between the two. Ray states, however, that intellectual mania rarely exists without influence on the “moral faculties”, and he gives a few examples of this condition:

He becomes indifferent to those whom he loved the most; the mother thinks no longer of her children, or regards them with loathing; the child forgets his parents; the husband is insensible to the endearments of his wife; and love, attachment, and friendship are replaced by hatred, jealousy, and indifference.

The second section is devoted to Partial Intellectual Mania, or “monomania.” Ray describes a series of cases that describe the “most simple form of this disorder,” most of which appear to fall under the modern category of delusional disorder. The second series of cases is very similar to the first, with a moderate broadening of the scope of the delusions.

In this chapter, Ray sets some background about mania as a “disease of the brain” that “observes the same laws as diseases of other organs.” He recognizes that it is often often genetic, and often first degree relatives display oddities of character rather than a diagnosable condition. Ray cautions that a person should be compared to their own baseline, not to others, for diagnosis. There are some case examples to this effect, and also a discussion about some gray areas in which an odd or eccentric individual ultimately does something out of character that is more difficult to separate out from insanity. There is also some discussion about “instantaneous mania,” and the inherent difficulty of documenting such a condition accurately. Ray so provies some extended discussion about erratic behavior provoked by an inciting event. A case report chronicles a young man who learned that his sister had been taken advantage of by on older man. Ray relates that the difference between a “storm of passion” and this man’s insanity is that the former lasts hours followed by a fixed determination and plan for violence. Insanity was, in this case, evinced by three or four days of consistent disorganized behavior and delusions. Ray further proposes sub-categories of intellectual and affective mania, ushering in Chapter 6.

Interestingly, the idea of a person’s “unconscious nature” is also mentioned attributed to Maudsley. Perhaps this was a precursor to some of Freud’s ideas?

Chapter 4

Ray discusses some of the strange disparities of intellectual impairment under the law.  As previously discussed, despite an absence of protection for estate and property the intellectually impaired find almost no quarter when charged with criminal offenses.  Curiously, the right to vote is unhindered by the loss of most other liberties.  Here again Ray points out that a well-reasoned approach under the law is lacking, a recurring theme for the first few chapters.  Sadly, the reference to the intellectually impaired as less than human is also a repeating theme.

Chapter 3 and a break

Chapter 3 continues a discussion on the impact of intellectual impairment on the capacity to understand wrongfulness. The concepts here and in Chapter 2 seem to correlate reasonably with our modern notions of IQ as a spectrum, but there are some obvious differences. Modern IQ testing does not directly address the issue of “moral” decision making. Georget’s observations are also interesting, and again I am struck by the statement-of-fact writing style characteristic of the period in which a series of anecdoes is presented as science. Obviously this reflects the methods and thinking of that period, but it is still jarring for the modern reader.

Also, please note in the schedule that further readings are deferred until the new year. We will resume with Chapter 4 in the second week of January.

Chapters 1 and 2

Some of the ideas presented in these chapters at first glance appear to have unsettling echoes of Italian Positivist Criminology. The focus on physical features as demonstrative of underlying impairment are certainly well acknowledged in some conditions. For example, Fragile X, Down Syndrome, and Angelman Syndrome all have characteristic features that can aid in diagnosis. Ray describes a variety of features that have varying correlations with well-described diagnostic entities.

Interestingly, in sharp contrast to Italian Positivist Criminology, Ray proposes that intellectual and moral understanding are independent of one another. This is a provocative concept, an at times appears contradictory to some of the other points demonstrated in Chapter 2. Feel free to add further thoughts in the discussion.

Preliminary Views

Last week’s readings focused on some interesting thoughts regarding the jury system, the conflict between the forward march of scientific progress and the legal premise of stare decisis, and the confusing historic divide between civil and criminal standards of insanity. This week’s reading has been equally thought provoking; please sound off in the online Google group hosting the discussion.

After this segment, reading will focus on more specific topics which should more readily facilitate discussion. Please see the schedule above for details.

Getting Started

Today is day one of the reading group. Please see the schedule for this week (and the weeks to come). We are starting with the Preliminary View section, through §25. Although largely background, I will be posting some reactions to some of the more provocative portions over the week. Please respond through the contact page to participate through the Google Group. You may interact via email or directly through the web; please include your preference along with your email address in the contact form.

Again, the book is available free of charge in PDF format here.

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