Are psychopaths morally responsible persons?

19 January, 2021

Volkov D.
First pub. in: Вестник Томского государственного университета. 2016. № 2 (34). С. 212-222.

It seems that there is collision between the contemporary legal practices and philosophical views on the moral responsibility of psychopaths. A number of philosophers and psychologists argue that psychopaths lack certain qualities necessary for moral personhood and so can’t be held responsible. On the other side courts often try these cases and find the psychopaths guilty. In this article the author examines the arguments about the responsibility of psychopaths and comes to the conclusion that they should be held responsible even in the basic desert sense. The conclusion is based firstly on the conviction that psychopaths actually do possess necessary capacities, in particular capacity to treat others as persons and they possess moral competency. Secondly, it is based on the observation of similarities between the psychopaths and repeat offenders. Both kinds of criminals have an ill will and immoral character. The lack of empathy that is typical for the psychopaths cannot serve as an excuse and reason to withdraw accountability. The author of the article examines several objections to this view, but finds them unconvincing. So he concludes that the punishment of psychopaths is justified.

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