Psychopaths are renowned for their immoral behavior. They are ideal candidates for testing the empirical plausibility of moral theories. Many think the source of their immorality is their emotional deficits. Psychopaths experience no guilt or remorse, feel no empathy, and appear to be perfectly rational. If this is true, sentimentalism is supported over rationalism. Here, I examine the nature of psychopathic practical reason and argue that it is impaired. The relevance to morality is discussed. I conclude that rationalists can explain (...) the moral deficits of psychopaths as well as sentimentalists. In the process, I identify psychological structures that underpin practical rationality. (shrink)
This article considers whether psychopaths should be held criminally responsible. After describing the positive law of criminal responsibility in general and as it applies to psychopaths, it suggests that psychopaths lack moral rationality and that severe psychopaths should be excused from crimes that violate the moral rights of others. Alternative forms of social control for dangerous psychopaths, such as involuntary civil commitment, are considered, and the potential legal implications of future scientific understanding of psychopathy are addressed.
Psychopathy is a developmental disorder associated with specific forms of emotional dysfunction and an increased risk for both frustration-based reactive aggression and goal-directed instrumental antisocial behavior. While the full behavioral manifestation of the disorder is under considerable social influence, the basis of this disorder appears to be genetic. At the neural level, individuals with psychopathy show atypical responding within the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). Moreover, the roles of the amygdala in stimulus-reinforcement learning and responding to emotional (...) expressions and vmPFC in the representation of reinforcement expectancies are compromised. The implications of these functional impairments for responsibility are discussed. (shrink)
Psychopathy presents a difficult challenge to moral and criminal responsibility theorists. Persons with the disorder have an impaired capacity for empathy and other moral emotions, and fail to feel the force of moral considerations. They have some rational impairments, but they reason adequately to manipulate, con, and exploit their victims, and otherwise to engage successfully in antisocial behavior. Is it appropriate to hold them morally responsible for their wrongdoing? Should the law hold psychopaths criminally responsible? This essay discusses philosophical (...) debates involved in addressing these questions. (shrink)
Psychopathy is often characterized in terms of what I call “the language of disorder.” I question whether such language is necessary for an accurate and precise characterization of psychopathy, and I consider the practical implications of how we characterize psychopathy—whether as a biological, or merely normative, disorder.
Psychopaths have emotional and rational impairments that can be expressed in persistent criminal behaviour. UK and US law has not traditionally excused disordered individuals for their crimes citing these impairments as a cause for their criminal behaviour. Until now, the discussion of whether psychopaths are morally responsible for their behaviour has usually taken place in the realm of philosophy. However, in recent years, this debate has been informed by scientific and psychiatric advancements, fundamentally so with the development of Robert Hare's (...) diagnostic tool, the Psychopathy Checklist. Responsibility and Psychopathy explores the moral responsibility of psychopaths. It engages with problems at the interface between law, psychiatry, and philosophy, and is divided into three parts offering relevant interdisciplinary background information to address this main problem. The first part discusses the public policy and legal responses to psychopathy. It offers an introduction to the central practical issue of how public policy should respond to psychopathy, providing insights for those arguing about the responsibility of psychopaths. The second part introduces recent scientific advancements in the classification, description, explanation, and treatment of psychopathy. The third part of the volume includes chapters covering the most significant dimensions of philosophical debate on the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. Exploring one of the most contentious topics of our time, this book will be fascinating reading for psychiatrists, philosophers, criminologists, and lawyers. Readership: Psychiatrists, philosophers, psychologists, criminologists . (shrink)
In attempting to explain or deal with negative workplace behaviours such as workplace bullying, the notion of ‘workplace psychopaths’ has recently received much attention. Focusing on individual aspects of negative workplace behaviour is at odds with more systemic approaches that recognise the contribution of individual, organisational and societal influences, without seeking to blame a person(s) for their behaviour or personality disorder. Regarding a coworker as a psychopath is highly stigmatising, and given the relatively low prevalence of psychopathy in the (...) community, is likely to be incorrect. Sources promoting the notion of workplace psychopathy provide lists of diagnostic criteria and appear to encourage the perception that it is common. This research examines how lay persons use behavioural criteria consistent with psychopathy and the label ‘psychopath’ in relation to a coworker. 307 Australian workers completed an online survey concerning their experience of workplace bullying, which also asked them to rate a coworker’s behaviour on a range of scales to assess perceptions of psychopathy. Rates of psychopathy, when using labels and behavioural criteria, were found to be much higher than scientific estimates of prevalence, for both participants who had been bullied and those who had not. A higher proportion of non-bullied participants classified a coworker as a psychopath when using the label ‘psychopath’, compared to when using behavioural criteria. The notion that there are psychopaths in every workplace should be treated with caution to ensure that the potential for ‘misdiagnosis’ and stigmatisation do not cause further harm in situations of unacceptable workplace behaviours. (shrink)
Schematic, propositional, analogical and associative representational Systems (SPAARS) is the integrated cognitive model of emotion proposed by Power and Dalgleish (Cognition and Emotion: from order to disorder. The Psychology Press, England, 1997). It is multi-level in nature and includes four different levels of representation. In SPAARS, emotions are described as appraisal-based according to an individualâs goals, thus making the theory functional in nature. Basic emotions possess an innate component and hence can be elicited automatically, since these emotions might already have (...) been appraised in an individualâs evolutionary past. Thus, the theory proposes two routes for the generation of emotions. It provides an useful approach within which both basic and complex emotions can readily be understood. The theory can also be applied in order to explain emotional disorders as well as to generate novel therapeutic interventions for them. In the current review the SPAARS approach has been used to understand psychopathy, also called the disorder of empathy (a complex emotion). The theory provides a new perspective for looking at psychopaths. It suggests that psychopathy may arise either due to a problem generating the basic emotion of sadness, the complex emotion of empathy or a combination of the two. The interventions suggested would also vary depending upon the underlying nature of the problem. (shrink)
The primary goal of this essay is to clarify the concept of psychopathy and distinguish it from other, related, concepts. We contend that the paradigmatic trait of psychopathy is a propensity to violence that is accompanied by a lack of conscience. We also argue that conceptual clarity on this point is important for devising empirical criteria for identifying psychopaths. We also argue that a full theory of psychopathy will require one to utilize theories and assumptions that pertain (...) to central issues in meta-ethics. (shrink)
Psychopathy is best regarded as a complex family of disorders. The upside is that this family can be tightly related along identifiable common dimensions. Characteristic marks of psychopaths include a lack of guilt and remorse for paradigm case immoral actions, leading to the common conception of psychopathy rooted in affective disfunctions. An adequate portrait of psychopathy is much more complicated, however. Though some neural regions and corresponding functions are commonly indicated, they range across those responsible for action (...) planning and learning, high-level processing as well as emotional processes – amygdala, insula, anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus amongst them. Accordingly, a complete fine-grained map of all neural mechanisms responsible for psychopathy has not been realized, and even if it were, such a map would have limited utility outside of the context of surgical or chemical intervention, The utility of this neural-level understanding of psychopathy is further limited by the fact that it is only applicable in the clinical correction of individual subjects after those subjects are positively identified as belonging to the diverse family of psychopaths. On the other hand, an information processing model of moral cognition, fully consistent with the neurology and psychology of psychopathy, provides a base for wider-ranging applications. In this chapter, relevant research is reviewed. The historical progression of moral-psychological accounts of psychopathy and antisocial personality is briefly recounted. Neural mechanisms, including the roles of hormones and brain structures are correlated. From this review, common dimensions are rendered, resulting in a simple account suitable to an information processing model of moral/immoral/amoral psychology. Then, this model is articulated. The theoretical and practical implications for such a feasible working model of psychopathic personalities are assessed. One the theoretical front, it permits the direct testing of individual, as well as a common currency for the comparative evaluation and integration of multiple, moral, psychological, and neurological theories of psychopathy. On the practical front, it permits experimental designs and simulations – both virtual and actual - seeking greater resolution on the social effects of psychopaths when they become active agents in multi-agent systems, as leaders of families, corporations, and governments. From the results of such experiments, psychopathic influences on individuals and institutions become identifiable, and cash-value for seemingly ungrounded folk-psychological attributions of psychopathic policies, laws, and organizations can be drawn. Finally, this raises the possibility of directed modification of social-environmental factors (including at the meta-organizational level) reinforcing the development of psychopathic personalities in the first place, modifications which are also open to simulation and testing. (shrink)
This study examined correlations between moral value judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), and participant scores on the Short-D3 “Dark Triad” Personality Inventory—a measure of three related “dark and socially destructive” personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Five hundred sixty-seven participants (302 male, 257 female, 2 transgendered; median age 28) were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk and Yale Experiment Month web advertisements. Different responses to MIS items were initially hypothesized to be “conservative” or “liberal” in line (...) with traditional public divides. Our demographic data confirmed all of these hypothesized categorizations. We then tested two broad, exploratory hypotheses: (H1) the hypothesis that there would be “many” significant correlations between conservative MIS judgments and the Dark Triad, and (H2) the hypothesis that there would be no significant correlations between liberal MIS judgments and Machiavellianism or Psychopathy, but “some” significant correlations between liberal MIS judgments and Narcissism. Because our hypotheses were exploratory and we ran a large number of statistical tests (62 total), we utilized a Bonferroni Correction to set a very high threshold for significance (p = .0008). Our results broadly supported our two hypotheses. We found eleven significant correlations between conservative MIS judgments and the Dark Triad—all at significance level of p < .00001—but no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and liberal MIS judgments. We believe that these results raise provocative moral questions about the personality bases of moral judgments. In particular, we propose that because the Short-D3 measures three “dark and antisocial” personality traits, our results raise some prima facie worries about the moral justification of some conservative moral judgments. (shrink)
I argue that emotional sensitivity (or insensitivity) has a marked negative influence on ethical perception. Diminished capacities of ethical perception, in turn, mitigate what we are morally responsible for while lack of such capacities may altogether eradicate responsibility. Impairment in ethical perception affects responsibility by affecting either recognition of or reactivity to moral reasons. It follows that emotional insensitivity (together with its attendant impairment in ethical perception) bears saliently on moral responsibility. Since one distinguishing mark of the psychopath is emotional (...) insensitivity, emotional insensitivity and the resulting impairment in moral perception either excuses the psychopath from moral culpability or moderates the degree to which he is culpable. (shrink)
In this paper, I attempt to show that the moral/conventional distinction simply cannot bear the sort of weight many theorists have placed on it for determining the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. After revealing the fractured nature of the distinction, I go on to suggest how one aspect of it may remain relevant—in a way that has previously been unappreciated—to discussions of the responsibility of psychopaths. In particular, after offering an alternative explanation of the available data on psychopaths and (...) their judgments of various sorts of norm transgressions, I put forward a hybrid theory of their responsibility, suggesting how they might be criminally responsible, while nevertheless failing to meet the conditions for an important arena of moral responsibility. (shrink)
In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing 11 significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on 15 additional (...) moral issues. The new issues examined include illegal immigration, abortion, the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the war on terrorism, laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and environmentalism. 1154 participants (680 male, 472 female; median age 29), recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk, completed three surveys: a 15-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), the 28-item Short Dark Triad personality inventory, and a five-item demographic survey. The results strongly reinforce my earlier findings. Twenty-two significant correlations were observed between “conservative” judgments and the Dark Triad (all of which were significant past a Bonferonni-corrected significance threshold of p = .0008), compared to seven significant correlations between Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments (only one of which was significant past p = .0008). This article concludes by developing a novel research proposal for determining whether the results of my two studies are “bad news” for conservatives or liberals. (shrink)
In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing eleven significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on fifteen additional (...) moral issues. The new issues examined include illegal immigration, abortion, the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the war on terrorism, laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and environmentalism. 1154 participants (680 male, 472 female; median age 29), recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk, completed three surveys: a 15-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), the 28-item Short Dark Triad personality inventory, and a five-item demographic survey. The results strongly reinforce my earlier findings. Twenty-two significant correlations were observed between “conservative” judgments and the Dark Triad (all of which were significant past a Bonferonni-corrected significance threshold of p=.0008), compared to seven significant correlations between Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments (only one of which was significant past p=.0008). This article concludes by developing a novel research proposal for determining whether the results of my two studies are “bad news” for conservatives or liberals. (shrink)
A pressing and difficult practical problem concerns the general issue of the right social response to offenders classified as having antisocial personality disorder. This paper approaches this general problem by focusing, from a philosophical perspective, on the still relevant but more approachable question whether psychopathic offenders are morally responsible. In particular, I investigate whether psychopaths possess moral understanding. A plausible way to approach the last question requires a satisfactory philosophical interpretation of the empirical evidence that appears to show that psychopaths (...) fail to draw the distinction between conventional and moral norms. Specifically, I will consider a recent philosophical debate polarized between supporters of rationalist and sentimentalist accounts of moral understanding. These opponents have discussed whether the case of psychopathy offers empirical support for their account and undermine the rival view. I will argue that the available empirical data leave the outcome of this discussion indeterminate. However, this implies that both these principal theories of moral understanding, if independently motivated, would imply that psychopaths have certain deficits that might affect their moral understanding and, consequently, their moral responsibility. (shrink)
Abstract ?Lovelessness? and ?guiltlessness? are often seen as the distinctive features of the psychopath. These characteristics can be interpreted as a failure to have two sub?classes of moral emotions, the (moral) rule?emotions and the altruistic emotions. For a better understanding of this moral defect, a more detailed analysis of these types of moral emotions is given. The analysis indicates that the disorder is caused by the absence of the second component of both types of emotions. The psychopath misses a positive (...) commitment to both moral rules and to the well?being of fellow man. The psychopath is characterized as a moral imbecile, and it is assumed that his moral development is stagnated in an early developmental stage. As a young child, the psychopath has not acquired the disposition to feel sympathy. This insight makes us aware of the utmost importance of early childhood (moral) education. (shrink)
Abstract: Many philosophers believe that people who are not capable of grasping the significance of moral considerations are not open to moral blame when they fail to respond appropriately to these considerations. I contend, however, that some morally blind, or 'psychopathic,' agents are proper targets for moral blame, at least on some occasions. I argue that moral blame is a response to the normative commitments and attitudes of a wrongdoer and that the actions of morally blind agents can express the (...) relevant blame-grounding attitudes insofar as these agents possess the capacity to make judgments about non-moral reasons. (shrink)
I distinguish three evolutionary explanations of mental illness: first, breakdowns in evolved computational systems; second, evolved systems performing their evolutionary function in a novel environment; third, evolved personality structures. I concentrate on the second and third explanations, as these are distinctive of an evolutionary psychopathology, with progressively less credulity in the light of the empirical evidence. General morals are drawn for evolutionary psychiatry.
I respond here to an argument in David Shoemaker’s recent essay, “Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability: Toward a Wider Theory of Moral Responsibility.” Shoemaker finds that “Scanlonian” approaches to moral blame err insofar as they do not include a capacity to respond to moral considerations among the conditions on blameworthiness. Shoemaker argues that wrongdoers must be able to respond to moral reasons for their behavior to express the disrespect to which blaming attitudes like resentment respond. I offer reasons for rejecting this (...) argument. (shrink)
A recent article in Neuroethics posited “bad news for conservatives,” on the basis of survey data collected on line. On the basis of bivariate correlations between self-reported conservatism/liberalism and a variety of moral propositions, the author inferred that those moral judgments were ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal.’ Then, based on a series of bivariate correlations between those same moral propositions and measures of “morally worrisome” personality characteristics, the author concluded that conservatives tended to have these morally worrisome characteristics. Unfortunately, the original article (...) was replete with methodological and statistical errors. This paper presents a reanalysis of the data from the original article, using good statistical and methodological technique. The reanalysis suggests that there are some small but potentially theoretically meaningful relationships between some moral propositions and three morally worrisome (antisocial) personality characteristics. The data also suggest that these relationships can change substantially depending on other conditions, so should not yet be generalized. (shrink)
It is common for philosophers to argue that psychopaths are not morally responsible because they lack some of the essential capacities for morality. In legal terms, they are criminally insane. Typically, however, the insanity defense is not available to psychopaths. The primary reason is that they appear to have the knowledge and understanding required under the M’Naghten Rules. However, it has been argued that what is required for moral and legal responsibility is ‘deep’ moral understanding, something that psychopaths do not (...) have either due to their lacking empathy or practical reason. In the first part of the paper, I argue that psychopaths do not lack the abilities required for deep moral understanding, although they have deficits in those areas. According the M’Naghten Rules, therefore, psychopaths are not insane. Under a less strict formulation of the insanity plea, like the Model Penal Code, however, there is a good case to be made for their lacking substantial capacity. I argue that because psychopathy is an essentially moral disorder, and because of the nature of psychopathic violence, psychopaths should not be excused under the insanity plea. It would be tantamount to excusing someone for committing a crime because they are bad. Arguably, this contravenes the entire system of law. (shrink)
Psychopathy involves impaired capacity for prudential and moral reasoning due to impaired capacity for empathy, remorse, and sensitivity to fear-inducing stimuli. Brain abnormalities and genetic polymorphisms associated with these traits appear to justify the claim that psychopaths cannot be morally responsible for their behavior. Yet psychopaths are capable of instrumental reasoning in achieving their goals, which suggests that they have some capacity to respond to moral reasons against performing harmful acts and refrain from performing them. The cognitive and affective (...) impairment of the psychopath justifies mitigated responsibility, but not excuse. (shrink)
Psychopaths are agents who lack the normal capacity to feel moral emotions (e.g. guilt based on empathy with the victims of their actions). Evidence for attributing psychopathy at least in some cases to genetic or early childhood causes suggests that psychopaths lack free will. However, the paper defends a sense in which psychopaths still may be construed as responsible for their actions, even if their degree of responsibility is less than that of normal agents. Responsibility is understood in Strawsonian (...) terms, as a question of our appropriate reactive attitudes toward an agent for what she does, and as distinct from the question of the agent's own motivating attitudes, which lead him to do what he does. The latter is the question more directly relevant to free will, though moral motivation normally depends on the capacity in early childhood to pick up motivating attitudes from others' reactive attitudes. Reactive attitudes based on hatred rather than anger (e.g. disgust or contempt) count as alternative forms of blame that may be appropriately directed toward agents manifesting bad qualities of will, even as a matter of motivational impairment. So psychopaths may still be said to deserve blame, even if they are incapable of modifying their behavior in response to blame. (shrink)
Responsibility theorists frequently discuss psychopathy because it challenges various accounts of the capacities required for appropriate ascriptions of moral and legal responsibility. As often described, the psychopath has the capacity to reason practically but lacks the capacity to grasp and control himself in light of moral considerations. As portrayed, then, the psychopath resides in the area of disagreement between two philosophical camps: (i) theorists who put forth the general capacity for practical reasoning or rational self-governance as sufficient for an (...) agent to be appropriately held morally responsible for his conduct; and (ii) theorists who view that general capacity as necessary but not sufficient for moral responsibility, additionally requiring the capacity to grasp and respond to distinctly moral reasons. On the former view, we may appropriately hold psychopaths responsible for their wrongful actions, but not on the latter. This article does not aim to describe the opposing views and argue for one over the other. Rather, I propose to deflate the debate as far as possible, attempting to reduce the area of disagreement. Meaningful disagreement exists only if there are, or could be, agents who have an undiminished capacity for practical reasoning or rational self-governance, yet truly are incapable of moral reasoning. However, I suggest that the capacity for rational self-governance entails the capacity to comprehend and act on moral considerations; thus, to the extent that an individual truly is incapable of grasping moral reasons, we should expect to find deeper, more general deficiencies in that individual's rational capacities. I appeal to the work of leading researchers who study individuals with psychopathy to determine whether psychopaths do represent rational self-governors without the capacity to grasp moral considerations. I argue that this work strongly suggests that the psychopath's incapacity for moral reasoning is, indeed, evidence of more general deficits in the rational capacities required for fully accountable agency. The Article closes with relevant considerations for thinking about any implications for criminal law. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a general profile of individuals with psychopathy, autism, and acquired sociopathy as well as look specifically at the abilities of these individuals with respect to the moral domain. These individuals are individually and collectively interesting because of their significant affective and social impairments. I argue that none of these individuals should be considered full moral agents based on a proposed account of moral agency consisting of the following two necessary conditions: (1) the capacity for (...) moral judgment and (2) the capacity for moral motivation. Since each of these groups of individuals fails to satisfy the criteria in a different way, these arguments help to distinguish three primary ways in which emotion contributes to moral motivation. I conclude with a suggested general implication of this discussion for related debates in moral theory. (shrink)
At least some serial killers are psychopathic serial killers. Psychopathic serial killers raise interesting questions about the nature of evil and moral responsibility. On the one hand, serial killers seem to be obviously evil, if anything is. On the other hand, psychopathy is a diagnosable disorder that, among other things, involves a diminished ability to understand and use basic moral distinctions. This feature of psychopathy suggests that psychopathic serial killers have at least diminished responsibility for what they do. (...) In this chapter I consider whether psychopathic serial killers might be properly said to be both evil and morally responsible for their actions. I argue that psychopathic serial killers are plausibly evil in at least one recognizable sense of the term, but that they are nevertheless not likely to be responsible for many of the evils they perpetuate. (shrink)
The diagnosis of psychopathy is controversial largely because of two notions: first, that because of their defects, psychopaths cannot understand morality, and second, that these defects should thus excuse psychopaths from moral responsibility for their actions. However, it is not clear just what is involved in understanding morality. The argument that the psychopath is ignorant of morality in the same way that one might be ignorant of facts is difficult to sustain. However, a closer examination of the psychopath's peculiar (...) deficiencies reveals that the psychopath's understanding of morality might be impaired in other ways. Keywords: disease, ethics, philosophy, psychopathy, psychiatry, responsibility CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This essay explores the boundaries of the moral community—the collection of agents eligible for moral responsibility—by focusing on those just inside it and those just outside it. In particular, it contrasts mild mental retardation with psychopathy, specifically among adults. For those who work with and know them, adults with mild mental retardation are thought to be obvious members of the moral community (albeit not full-fledged members). For those who work with and theorize about adult psychopaths, by contrast, they are (...) not members of the moral community (albeit not in such a full-fledged fashion as the insane). Both psychopaths and adults with MMR have a disability, and the essay is interested in how disability sometimes exempts one from the moral community and sometimes doesn't. It will be through two associated puzzles that we will eventually come to see the complicated tripartite relation between disability, responsibility, and moral community. (shrink)
In this paper, our goal is to (a) survey some of the legal contexts within which violence risk assessment already plays a prominent role, (b) explore whether developments in neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict violence, and (c) discuss whether neuropredictive models of violence create any unique legal or moral problems above and beyond the well worn problems already associated with prediction more generally. In Violence Risk Assessment and the Law , we briefly examine the (...) role currently played by predictions of violence in three high stakes legal contexts: capital sentencing ( Violence Risk Assessment and Capital Sentencing ), civil commitment hearings ( Violence Risk Assessment and Civil Commitment ), and sexual predator statutes ( Violence Risk Assessment and Sexual Predator Statutes ). In Clinical vs. Actuarial Violence Risk Assessment , we briefly examine the distinction between traditional clinical methods of predicting violence and more recently developed actuarial methods, exemplified by the Classification of Violence Risk (COVR) software created by John Monahan and colleagues as part of the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence . In The Neural Correlates of Psychopathy , we explore what neuroscience currently tells us about the neural correlates of violence, using the recent neuroscientific research on psychopathy as our focus. We also discuss some recent advances in both data collection ( Cutting-Edge Data Collection: Genetically Informed Neuroimaging ) and data analysis ( Cutting-Edge Data Analysis: Pattern Classification ) that we believe will play an important role when it comes to future neuroscientific research on violence. In The Potential Promise of Neuroprediction , we discuss whether neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict future violence. Finally, in The Potential Perils of Neuroprediction , we explore some potential evidentiary ( Evidentiary Issues ), constitutional ( Constitutional Issues ), and moral ( Moral Issues ) issues that may arise in the context of the neuroprediction of violence. (shrink)
When laws or legal principles mention mental states such as intentions to form a contract, knowledge of risk, or purposely causing a death, what parts of the brain are they speaking about? We argue here that these principles are tacitly directed at our prefrontal executive processes. Our current best theories of consciousness portray it as a workspace in which executive processes operate, but what is important to the law is what is done with the workspace content rather than the content (...) itself. This makes executive processes more important to the law than consciousness, since they are responsible for channeling conscious decision-making into intentions and actions, or inhibiting action.We provide a summary of the current state of our knowledge about executive processes, which consists primarily of information about which portions of the prefrontal lobes perform which executive processes. Then we describe several examples in which legal principles can be understood as tacitly singling out executive processes, including principles regarding defendants’ intentions or plans to commit crimes and their awareness that certain facts are the case(for instance, that a gun is loaded), as well as excusatory principles which result in lesser responsibility for those who are juveniles, mentally ill, sleepwalking, hypnotized, or who suffer from psychopathy. (shrink)
Reimer ( Neuroethics 2008 ) believes that how we use language to characterize psychopathy may affect our judgments of moral responsibility. If we say a psychopath has a disorder we may reduce their responsibility for moral failure. If we say a psychopath is merely different, we may not reduce their responsibility. Vincent ( Neuroethics 2008 ) argues that if this were the case, a diagnosis of disorder would be both necessary and sufficient to reduce the responsibility of some agent (...) for moral failure. Vincent presents two examples to suggest that a disorder is neither necessary nor sufficient to exculpate an individual for moral failure: childhood and hypomania. Vincent suggests instead that our judgments of moral responsibility ought to be based on the individual’s capacity for moral agency. I will side with Vincent in this debate, but argue that the example she uses, hypomania, does not work. I will argue that a diagnosis of hypomania, part of Bipolar II Disorder, is sufficient to exculpate an individual for some moral failure. This is because there are responsibility-relevant capacities missing: the capacities for self-awareness and to control ones abilities. Without these capacities, the individual is not a responsible moral agent. Vincent will need to provide an alternative example to show that the presence of a disorder is not sufficient to exculpate an individual for moral failure. Whilst our use of language is important, that use reflects our judgments of the individual’s capacities for moral agency. Responsibilities are determined not only by capacities, but by the right kind of capacities, and this should be reflected in our moral judgments, and our use of language. (shrink)
We question whether empathy is mediated by a unitary circuit. We argue that recent neuroimaging data indicate dissociable neural responses for different facial expressions as well as for representing others' mental states (Theory of Mind, TOM). We also argue that the general empathy disorder considered characteristic of autism and psychopathy is not general but specific for each disorder.
Successful psychopaths, defined as individuals in the general population who nevertheless possess some degree of psychopathic traits, are receiving increasing amounts of empirical attention. To date, little is known about such individuals, specifically with regard to how they respond to ethical dilemmas in business contexts. This study investigated this relationship, proposing a mediated model in which the positive relationship between psychopathy and unethical decision-making is explained through the process of moral disengagement, defined as a cognitive orientation that facilitates unethical (...) choice. The results of the study supported this model, and implications for theory and practice are discussed. (shrink)
Primary aloneness -- Incommunicado core and boundless supporting unknown -- Guilt in an age of psychopathy -- I killed Socrates -- Revenge ethics -- Something wrong -- Emily and M.E. -- Faith and destructiveness.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948) This resounding statement encapsulates a number of problematic themes for lawyers with respect to personality disorder, and acutely so for the extremes of personality disorder embraced by designations such as psychopathy or dangerous and severe personality disorder (DSPD). These designations are in (...) themselves contentious; they do not have commonly agreed definitions either across disciplines or across jurisdictions. Morse (2008), for example, argues in a fascinating account that .. (shrink)
Rationality and Compulsion presents a unique examination of mental illness - derived from philosophical action theory. Delusion is common to many mental disorders, resulting in actions that, though perhaps rational to the individual, might seem entirely inappropriate or harmful to others. So what is it that causes these actions, and why do they continue? The theory expounded in this book shows how the key to this problem might be compulsion. -/- This book presents a new analysis of the notion of (...) compulsion - developed from action theory. The books starts with an introduction to action theory (for the benefit of non-philosophers). It then shows how insights from action theory can help us better understand mental illness, before developing an analysis of compulsion that emphasizes the element of unavoidability. The book argues that what is fundamentally disturbing to the person suffering from delusion is not so much the fact that the disorder tends to lead to irrational actions but rather the fact that he or she is unable to avoid performing these actions. The individual is or feels compelled to act in the way he or she does. The book contains some concrete illustrations of this idea as applied to several psychiatric diagnoses, such as paranoia, phobia, and psychopathy. -/- Rationality and Compulsion is a highly original new work from a leading figure in the philosophy and psychiatry movement. It will advance our understanding of mental illness, and be valuable for psychiatrists, psychologists, as well as philosophers. (shrink)
Depue & Morrone-Strupinsky's (D&M-S's) model of affiliation meets the criteria advanced for the definition of behavior systems and endophenotypes. We argue that its application in psychiatry could be useful for identifying a biological pathophysiology common to a variety of conditions that are currently classified in very different categories of psychiatric nosography, including autism, schizoid personality, primary psychopathy, and dismissing attachment.