Psychopathy, Responsibility, and the Moral/Conventional Distinction

Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):99-124 (2011)
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Abstract

In this paper, I attempt to show that the moral/conventional distinction simply cannot bear the sort of weight many theorists have placed on it for determining the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. After revealing the fractured nature of the distinction, I go on to suggest how one aspect of it may remain relevant—in a way that has previously been unappreciated—to discussions of the responsibility of psychopaths. In particular, after offering an alternative explanation of the available data on psychopaths and their judgments of various sorts of norm transgressions, I put forward a hybrid theory of their responsibility, suggesting how they might be criminally responsible, while nevertheless failing to meet the conditions for an important arena of moral responsibility.

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David Shoemaker
Cornell University

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