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Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility$
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Nicole A. Vincent

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199925605

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925605.001.0001

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Is Psychopathy a Mental Disease?

Is Psychopathy a Mental Disease?

Chapter:
(p.229) 10 Is Psychopathy a Mental Disease?
Source:
Neuroscience and Legal Responsibility
Author(s):

Thomas Nadelhoffer

Walter P. Sinnott-Armstrong

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199925605.003.0010

Whether psychopathy is a mental disease or illness can affect whether psychiatrists should treat it and whether it could serve as the basis for an insanity defense in criminal trials. Our understanding of psychopathy has been greatly improved in recent years by new research in psychology and neuroscience. This illuminating research enables us to argue that psychopathy counts as a mental disease on any plausible account of mental disease. In particular, Szasz's and Pickard's eliminativist views and Sedgwick's social constructivist account of mental illness that might exclude psychopathy are not plausible, and there is no reason to exclude psychopathy under Boorse's and Scadding's biomedical accounts, Wakefield's harmful dysfunction account, and the DSM-IV-TR objective harm account of mental disease. The basic reason is that psychopathy involve neural dysfunction that increases risk of serious harm and loss to people with psychopathy.

Keywords:   psychopathy, mental disease, mental illness, personality disorder, insanity defense, eliminativism, social construction, biomedical, dysfunction, harm

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