Moral Responsibility and Psychopathy: Why We Do Not Have Special Obligations To The Psychopath

American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 4 (2):26-27 (2013)
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Addressing concerns about the treatment of psychopaths, Grant Gillett and Flora Huang (2013) argue that we ought to accept a relational or holistic view of psychopathy and APSD rather than the default biomedical-deficit model since the latter “obscures moral truths about the psychopath”. This change in approach to the psychopath will both mitigate at least some of their moral responsibility for the harms they cause, and force communities to incur special obligations, so they claim, because the harms endured by psychopaths will be understood as part of the cause for the harms they are guilty of committing. However, as I will argue, even if we accept that a relational or holistic approach is better suited to understand psychopathy (which is itself contentious), it does not follow that their responsibility is mitigated in a way that causes communities to have special obligations to them as Gillett and Huang suggest. A diagnosis of APSD or psychopathy does not, prima facie, exculpate an agent or suggest a different way of treating them. My discussion will focus on the widely accepted excusing conditions one must meet for responsibility to me mitigated and conclude, contra Gillett and Huang, that psychopaths are no different from you or I with regards to having a causal history that leads to action. Outside forces play a role in all of our behavior. If the psychopath is owed anything because of the way they have come to understand the world then we all are owed that same debt.

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Justin Caouette
University of Calgary

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What We Owe the Psychopath: A Neuroethical Analysis.Grant Gillett & Jiaochen Huang - 2013 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 4 (2):3-9.
Diminishing and Enhancing Free Will.Walter Glannon - 2011 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 2 (3):15-26.

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