Psychopaths and blame: The argument from content

Philosophical Psychology 27 (3):351–367 (2014)

Authors
Neil Levy
Oxford University
Abstract
The recent debate over the moral responsibility of psychopaths has centered on whether, or in what sense, they understand moral requirements. In this paper, I argue that even if they do understand what morality requires, the content of their actions is not of the right kind to justify full-blown blame. I advance two independent justifications of this claim. First, I argue that if the psychopath comes to know what morality requires via a route that does not involve a proper appreciation of what it means to cause another harm or distress, the content of violations of rules against harm will be of a lower grade than the content of similar actions by normal individuals. Second, I argue that in order to intend a harm to a person?that is, to intend the distinctive kind of harm that can only befall a person?it is necessary to understand what personhood is and what makes it valuable. The psychopath's deficits with regard to mental time travel ensure that s/he cannot intend this kind of harm.
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2012.729485
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References found in this work BETA

What We Owe to Each Other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame.Thomas Scanlon - 2008 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Psychopathy, Agency, and Practical Reason.Monique Wonderly - forthcoming - In Ruth Chang & Kurt Sylvan (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Practical Reason. New York, USA: Routledge.
Are Psychopaths Legally Insane?Anneli Jefferson & Katrina Sifferd - 2018 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 14 (1):79-96.
XIV—Psychopathic Agency and Prudential Deficits.Gary Watson - 2013 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 113 (3pt3):269-292.

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

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