Is psychopathy a mental disease?

In Nicole Vincent (ed.), Neuroscience and legal responsibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 229–255 (2013)
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Whether psychopathy is a mental disease or illness can affect whether psychiatrists should treat it and whether it could serve as the basis for an insanity defense in criminal trials. Our understanding of psychopathy has been greatly improved in recent years by new research in psychology and neuroscience. This illuminating research enables us to argue that psychopathy counts as a mental disease on any plausible account of mental disease. In particular, Szasz's and Pickard's eliminativist views and Sedgwick's social constructivist account of mental illness that might exclude psychopathy are not plausible, and there is no reason to exclude psychopathy under Boorse's and Scadding's biomedical accounts, Wakefield's harmful dysfunction account, and the DSM-IV-TR objective harm account of mental disease. The basic reason is that psychopathy involve neural dysfunction that increases risk of serious harm and loss to people with psychopathy.



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Thomas Nadelhoffer
College of Charleston

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