“Psychopathy, Moral Reasons, and Responsibility”

In Alexandra Perry C. D. Herrera (ed.), Ethics and Neurodiversity (2013)
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In popular culture psychopaths are inaccurately portrayed as serial killers or homicidal maniacs. Most real-world psychopaths are neither killers nor maniacs. Psychologists currently understand psychopathy as an affective disorder that leads to repeated criminal and antisocial behavior. Counter to this prevailing view, I claim that psychopathy is not necessarily linked with criminal behavior. Successful psychopaths, an intriguing new category of psychopathic agent, support this conception of psychopathy. I then consider reactive attitude theories of moral responsibility. Within this tradition, psychopaths are thought to be blameless as a result of their pronounced affective deficits. Psychopaths are considered morally blind because they lack the moral emotions that make us sensitive to moral reasons. I argue that, even if they are morally blind, psychopaths remain open to forms of blame stemming from non-moral reactive attitudes. These reactive attitudes remain appropriate because psychopaths can express hateful, disgusting, or contemptible non-moral values in their judgments.

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Erick José Ramirez
Santa Clara University


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