The Insanity Defense
Multidisciplinary Views on Its History, Trends, and Controversies
by Mark D. White, Editor
January 2017, 441pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3180-5
$95, £74, 83€, A131
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3181-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

A study of court cases in eight U.S. states revealed that a defense of insanity was used in less than 1 percent of all cases.

How often is the defense of insanity or temporary insanity for accused criminals valid—or is it ever legitimate? This unique work presents multidisciplinary viewpoints that explain, support, and critique the insanity defense as it stands.

What is the role of “the insanity defense” as a legal excuse? How does U.S. law handle criminal trials where the defendant pleads insanity, and how does our legal system’s treatment differ from those of other countries or cultures? How are insanity defenses used, and how successful are these defenses for the accused? What are the costs of incarceration versus psychiatric treatment and confinement?

This book presents a range of expert viewpoints on the insanity defense, exposing common myths; investigating its effectiveness and place in our legal system through history, case studies, and comparative analysis; and supplying perspectives from the disciplines of psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and neuroscience. The content also addresses the ramifications of declaring citizens insane or incapacitated and examines trials that involved pleas of insanity and temporary insanity.


  • Presents multidisciplinary coverage of this important topic—one that is typically polarizing for members of the general public
  • Includes discussions of new advances in neuroscience that have revived debates regarding free will, culpability, and punishment
  • Illustrates points with widely publicized and televised trials that have recently increased public awareness of the insanity defense as well as heated debates over its justification
Mark D. White is chair and professor in the Department of Philosophy (formerly part of the Department of Political Economics, Economics, and Philosophy, of which he also served as chair) at the College of Staten Island/CUNY, where he teaches courses in economics, philosophy, and law. His published work includes Kantian Ethics and Economics: Autonomy, Dignity, and Character; The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism; The Virtues of Captain America: Modern-Day Lessons on Character from a World War II Superhero; and The Illusion of Well-Being: Economic Policymaking Based on Respect and Responsiveness. He has also written more than 50 journal articles and book chapters on the intersections of economics, philosophy, and law, and has edited and coedited a number of books on these subjects, including Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy; Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market-Oriented Solutions to Social-Economic Problems; and The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination. White is the series editor of Perspectives from Social Economics, and in 2014, he served as president of the Association for Social Economics.
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