Benjamin Costello

Benjamin Costello

Department of Philosophy
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

ERI Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I graduated in 2012 with BA (Hons) in Philosophy from the University of Southampton, and continued at the University to complete my MA in Philosophy in 2013. Both my BA and MA dissertations focused on specific areas in the Philosophy of Psychiatry, the nature of mental illness and the ethics of paedophilia respectively, both which kindled further interest in what have now become the main areas of my PhD research.


In my PhD thesis, I will investigate whether those whose mental illness involves an agent identity-change should be considered 'dangerous' and what ramifications this might have for the Mental Health Act, paternalistic interventions and appeals for 'diminished responsibility'.

My research questions the link between mental illness, identity and dangerousness. This assessment will be made by attempting to understand (a) the link between the dangerousness of agents whose mental illness(es) subject them to identity-changes, and (b) the nature of these identity-changes that are characteristic of certain mental illnesses - specifically Multiple Personality Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Depression. I aim to illustrate that the mentally ill are unfairly treated, inasmuch as they are not subject to the same presumption of harmlessness as those who are not mentally ill. My research will create a system of sequencing in which a finite chain of events can be sequenced in order to establish an agent's responsibility for their actions. This sequencing will reveal where, to prevent a harmful sequence-outcome, paternalistic interventions can be justifiably outweigh an agent's choice to act.

My PhD will impact on existing understandings of a currently neglected field in the relationship between mental illness, society and sequencing of personal identity. This will also provide the basis from which the criteria for labeling individuals as 'dangerous' can be understood.

For more information on my research, see my page or contact me by email.