Psychopathic personality disorder

John S. Callender

in Free will and responsibility

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199545551
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754616 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Psychopathic personality disorder

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Psychopaths constitute 15% to 25% of male and female prison populations and they are responsible, relative to nonpsychopathic criminals for a disproportionate amount of criminal recidivism and violent crime (Hare, 2003). The prevalence in the wider male population is unknown but is estimated at around 0.75% (Blair et al., 2005).

In this chapter I will begin by describing the defining characteristics of psychopathy. I will go on to describe the kinds of empirical research into psychopathy that have been carried out in recent years. I will then examine the concept of psychopathic personality with regard to its history, validity, and the reliability with which it can be diagnosed. I will then consider how such a disorder affects the agent's capacities for moral responsibility and whether such considerations should influence how we respond when someone with a psychopathic personality is convicted of a crime. I will conclude with discussion of how we should deal with psychopathic offenders in the light of the various theories of responsibility and punishment that have been described earlier in this text.

The psychopath usually comes to clinical attention only after he or she has committed a crime. The fact of wrongdoing therefore provides the main stimulus for interest in, and concern about, this condition. The psychopath therefore lies at the intersection of psychiatric diagnosis and judgments of moral and legal responsibility. He or she exemplifies many of the dilemmas and conflicts that arise when psychiatry, morals, and the law come into contact with each other.

Chapter.  22699 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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