The psychopath: legally, but not morally, responsible

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Publication Type honors thesis
School or College College of Humanities
Department Philosophy
Faculty Mentor James Tabery
Creator Cash, M. Gabriela
Title The psychopath: legally, but not morally, responsible
Year graduated 2012
Date 2012-05
Description Psychopaths present a peculiar problem for philosophers of legal and moral responsibility. They acknowledge the rules and conventions of society but are impervious to the moral foundations of these rules and conventions. This phenomenon may be attributed to the psychopaths' lack of empathy that leads to an absence of conscience. Many philosophers endorse an all or nothing approach towards responsibility that regards psychopaths as either both legally and morally responsible or not responsible at all. However, when discussing responsibility, a distinction must be made between legal and moral responsibility as the criteria for having either differs greatly. In order for an individual to be legally responsible, one must merely know the laws and that breaking them is illegal. On the other hand, moral responsibility broadly requires that one knows and can articulate the difference between right and wrong. Therefore, the demands of moral responsibility hold people to a greater standard and in turn, require them to meet a much greater threshold than the demands of legal responsibility. Psychopaths present a case where a rational agent lies between the thresholds of legal and moral responsibility as research suggests that the onset of psychopathy involves a defect in the gene that codes for MAOA, an known enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin associated with moral learning. Given their moral learning impairments, psychopaths fail to meet the criteria necessary for moral responsibility while still possessing the ability to know legal from illegal and thus, maintaining legal responsibility.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Psychopaths - Ethics
Language eng
Rights Management (c) Gabriela M. Cash
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 574,601 bytes
Permissions Reference URL
ARK ark:/87278/s69p69wv
Setname ir_htoa
Date Created 2016-10-12
Date Modified 2019-07-09
ID 205778
Reference URL
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