Psychopaths and responsibility
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AbstractThe problem of the responsibility of the psychopath, which is discussed in this thesis, has been approached, until now, in terms of whether psychopaths are mentally ill. This approach is mentioned in the first chapter, but abandoned in favour of an inquiry into which capacities are necessary for having moral consciousness. Instead of asking whether psychopaths are sick and therefore not responsible, the sickness question is bypassed, and the inquiry centres around asking whether psychopaths, in lacking the capacities necessary for moral awareness, are not appropriate objects for responsibility-ascription. Since the final claim made in the thesis is one about the incapacities of the psychopath, some time is spent discussing the notion of an incapacity, and how it is related to different senses of "responsible". The discussion of the requirements for moral consciousness centres around the notion of imagining-being someone-else . The capacity for this kind of imagining is seen as one of the capacities possessed by a person with a conscience, and" having a conscience" is presented as a shorthand way of referring to what we do in practical moral decision-making. In order to successfully imagine being someone else, it is argued, one needs to be capable of a similar range of emotions, cares or concerns. If one has only a limited capacity for such experiences, he cannot successfully perform this imagining task, and is, therefore, unable to develop moral awareness. In the latter part of the thesis, the psychopath is shown to be incapacitated in the ways discussed earlier. His range of experiences is too narrow to allow him to be a successful imaginer. This, in turn, prevents him from developing moral consciousness, and exercising the capacities, or experiencing the feelings, associated with having a conscience. Since the psychopath cannot control these incapacities, it is concluded that he is not a fit candidate for ascriptions of moral responsibility for his anti-social actions.
Bibliography: p. 146-147.
CitationBoetzkes, E. A. (1975). Psychopaths and responsibility (Unpublished doctoral thesis). University of Calgary, Calgary, AB. doi:10.11575/PRISM/18370
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