On Blaming and Punishing Psychopaths

Criminal Law and Philosophy 11 (1):127-142 (2017)
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Abstract

Current legal practice holds that a diagnosis of psychopathy does not remove criminal responsibility. In contrast, many philosophers and legal experts are increasingly persuaded by evidence from experimental psychology and neuroscience indicating moral and cognitive deficits in psychopaths and have argued that they should be excused from moral responsibility. However, having opposite views concerning psychopaths’ moral responsibility, on the one hand, and criminal responsibility, on the other, seems unfortunate given the assumption that the law should, at least to some extent, react to the same desert-based considerations as do ascriptions of moral responsibility. In response, Stephen Morse has argued that the law should indeed be reformed so as to excuse those with severe psychopathy from blame, but that psychopaths that have committed criminal offences should still be subject to some legal repercussions such as civil commitment. We argue that consequentialist and norm-expressivist considerations analogous to those that support punishing psychopaths or at least retaining some legal liability, might also be drawn on in favour of holding psychopaths morally accountable.

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Author Profiles

Marion Godman
Cambridge University
Anneli Jefferson
Cardiff University

Citations of this work

Instrumentalism about Moral Responsibility Revisited.Anneli Jefferson - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (276):555-573.
Are Psychopaths Legally Insane?Anneli Jefferson & Katrina Sifferd - 2018 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 14 (1):79-96.
Psychopathy and Criminal Responsibility (2nd edition).Marko Jurjako & Luca Malatesti - 2023 - Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Neuroethics: Challenges for the 21st Century.Neil Levy - 2007 - Cambridge University Press.
The responsibility of the psychopath revisited.Neil Levy - 2007 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 14 (2):pp. 129-138.
Doing & Deserving; Essays in the Theory of Responsibility.Joel Feinberg - 1970 - Princeton, N.J.,: Princeton University Press.
Psychopaths and blame: The argument from content.Neil Levy - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 27 (3):351–367.

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