Empathy and Psychopaths’ Inability to Grieve

Philosophy 98 (4):413-431 (2023)
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Psychopaths exhibit diminished ability to grieve. Here I address whether this inability can be explained by the trademark feature of psychopaths, namely, their diminished capacity for interpersonal empathy. I argue that this hypothesis turns out to be correct, but requires that we conceptualize empathy not merely as an ability to relate (emotionally and ethically) to other individuals but also as an ability to relate to past and present iterations of ourselves. This reconceptualization accords well with evidence regarding psychopaths’ intense focus on the temporal present and difficulties in engaging in mental time travel, as well as with the essentially egocentric and identity-based nature of grief.

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Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh

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References found in this work

Psychopaths and blame: The argument from content.Neil Levy - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (3):351-367.
Autism, empathy and moral agency.Jeanette Kennett - 2002 - Philosophical Quarterly 52 (208):340-357.
What Can Philosophers Learn from Psychopathy?Heidi L. Maibom - 2018 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 14 (1):63-78.
Grieving Our Way Back to Meaningfulness.Michael Cholbi - 2021 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 90:235-251.
Moral Unreason: The Case of Psychopathy.Heidi L. Maibom - 2005 - Mind and Language 20 (2):237-257.

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