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The lack of agency becoming part of the self

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2024

Judit Szalai*
Associate Professor in the Institute of Philosophy ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary
Correspondence Judit Szalai. Email:


This brief commentary on Greenberg's article ‘When the illness speaks’ addresses the problem of agency in mental disorder. Complementing the perspective of the article, it advocates an approach that does not see the causal mechanism of disorder-related behaviour in terms of an exclusive disjunction between the effects of the individual patient's own agency or manifestations of the illness. When reduced agency becomes part of the person's self-conception, passivity no longer means behaviour that is alien to their ‘genuine self’. Relatedly, the requirement that the patient's self-conception be validated raises some questions regarding its therapeutic constraints.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal College of Psychiatrists

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Commentary on…: When the illness speaks. See this issue.


An entire issue of Philosophical Explorations, in which Jeppsson's article appeared, is devoted to ‘self–illness ambiguity’ (2022, Vol. 25, Issue 3).


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