The disunity of moral judgment: Implications for the study of psychopathy

Philosophical Psychology 1 (2022)
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Abstract

Since the 18th century, one of the key features of diagnosed psychopaths has been “moral colorblindness” or an inability to form moral judgments. However, attempts at experimentally verifying this moral incapacity have been largely unsuccessful. After reviewing the centrality of “moral colorblindness” to the study and diagnosis of psychopathy, I argue that the reason that researchers have been unable to verify that diagnosed psychopaths have an inability to make moral judgments is because their research is premised on the assumption that there is a specific moral faculty of the brain, or specific “moral” emotions, and that this faculty or set of emotions can become “impaired”. I review recent research and argue that we have good reason to think that there is no such distinct capacity for moral judgment, and that, as a result, it is impossible for someone’s “moral judgment faculty” to become selectively disabled. I then discuss the implications of such a position on psychopathy research, the coherence of the disorder, and the moral responsibility of psychopaths.

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