Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Reasons and RecognitionEssays on the Philosophy of T.M. Scanlon$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

R. Jay Wallace, Rahul Kumar, and Samuel Freeman

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199753673

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753673.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 January 2020

The Trouble with Psychopaths 1

The Trouble with Psychopaths 1

(p.307) 13 The Trouble with Psychopaths1
Reasons and Recognition

Gary Watson

Oxford University Press

Psychopathy underscores a persistent tension in our conception of moral agency. On the one hand, psychopaths are rational creatures who are capable of deliberately injuring, manipulating, and defrauding. When they do so, they strike us as apt candidates for resentment and moral indignation, and we typically respond accordingly. On the other hand, psychopaths are constitutionally incapable recognizing the interests of others as making any valid claim on them. They are in this way disabled from participating in moral discourse and moral practice. This incapacity seems to be necessary for moral accountability. Their capacity for malice supports the attribution of responsible agency to them. Their lack of accountability supports the denial of responsibility. This tension explains the ambivalence that many feel toward psychopaths. This paper explores some implications of this tension for moral theory and practice, with special reference to T. M. Scanlon’s account of moral agency as the capacity for rational self-governance. I argue that Scanlon’s account fails to capture the condition of accountability and is furthermore at odds with a natural understanding of the agency required for contractualist moral theory. Nonetheless, we find in his work a conception of blame that illuminates our responses to psychopathic agency.

Keywords:   Accountability, blame, moral agency, normative competence, reciprocity, mutual recognition, punishment

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .