Columbia University in the City of New York

Apr 9, 20184:15 pm

Responsibility, Punishment and Psychopathy: At the Crossroads of Law, Neurocriminology and Philosophy

Three leading experts in neurocriminology, law and philosophy will discuss recent neuroscientific findings in psychopathy research.

April 9th, 4:15 pm – 6:15 pm at Faculty House, Columbia University


Psychopathy is a mental disorder closely associated with marked emotional dysfunctions, limited capacity for moral judgments, recidivistic offending, and poor treatment outcome. Considering its peculiar characteristics, the status of psychopathy in the field of law raises several disputes. While current criminal law holds psychopaths fully responsible and punishable for their misbehavior, some scholars argue that psychopathy is a condition that may severely compromise an individual’s moral agency and capacity for rationality. As such, it should be included among the potential excusing or mitigating factors for criminal responsibility and punishment. This argument finds additional support in the body of studies from neurocriminology showing that people who suffer from psychopathy exhibit (often severe) reduced functioning in the socio-emotional brain regions that are now known to be significantly involved in moral decision-making and prosocial behavior. The insights into the neurobiological roots of psychopathy seem to challenge even more the perennial dilemmas that have occupied the minds of legal scholars and philosophers for many years: Are psychopaths “bad” or “mad” (or both)? And how should criminal law and the justice system deal with them? This seminar aims to examine these issues and explore other contentious arguments about the status of psychopathy in the field law.

Three leading experts in neurocriminology, law, and philosophy will discuss recent neuroscientific findings in psychopathy research. The speakers will consider how these findings might contribute to the reconsideration of the responsibility of psychopathic offenders and how criminal justice should optimally respond to individuals suffering from such a controversial disorder.


Stephen J. Morse; Ferdinand Wakeman Hubbell Professor of Law; Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry; Associate Director, Center for Neuroscience & Society; University of Pennsylvania Law School
Adrian Raine; Richard Perry University Professor, University of Pennsylvania
Katrina Sifferd; Professor and Chair of Philosophy, Elmhurst College


Kathryn Tabb, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University


Federica Coppola, Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University

Free and open to the public, but RSVP is required. This event is part of the Seminars in Society and Neuroscience series.

Venue: Faculty House, Columbia University
64 Morningside Dr, New York, NY 10027

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