Are psychopaths morally responsible persons?

15 June, 2018

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.

More on this topic


Mind, Brain and Free Will. Research Seminar of the Center for Consciousness Studies

The seminar has been devoted to the book of the distinguished Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne “Mind, Brain and Free Will”. Swinburn takes an unpopular position for nowdays, defending the subs...
May 2018

Conference on The Personal Identity Problem. Recordings of the Presentations

The problem of personal identity is one of the most discussed in contemporary philosophy. It includes questions about the Self, personality, its identity in time and its unity. On May 17, 2018 at...
May 2018