, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 1003–1025 | Cite as

Neuropsychology and the Criminal Responsibility of Psychopaths: Reconsidering the Evidence

  • Marko JurjakoEmail author
  • Luca MalatestiEmail author


Recently it has been argued that certain neuropsychological findings on the decision-making, instrumental learning, and moral understanding in psychopathic offenders offer reasons to consider them not criminally responsible, due to certain epistemic and volitional impairments. We reply to this family of arguments, that collectively we call the irresponsibility of the psychopath argument (IPA for short). This type of argument has a premise that describes or prescribes the deficiencies that grant or should grant partial or complete criminal exculpation. The other premise contends that neuropsychological evidence shows that psychopaths have incapacitates that are sufficient to ascribe complete or partially exculpatory deficiencies. The focus of our criticism is this latter premise. We argue that it requires that psychopathy should correlate significantly with certain rational incapacities that manifest across contexts. We show that the available neuropsychological data do not support the claim that psychopaths have such general exculpatory incapacities.



We would like to thank Inti Brazil, Joseph Maes, Matt Matravers, Gwen Adshead, Janko Međedović, Justin Garson, Zdenka Brzović, and Viktor Ivanković for reading and giving comments on previous versions of this article. Special thanks go to four anonymous reviewers for Erkenntnis who gave insightful and helpful comments. Different versions of the article were presented in many places. We thank the audiences in Rijeka (Croatia), Bled (Slovenia), Belgrade (Serbia), and at the Donders Institute (The Netherlands) for valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.


Work on this article is funded by the Croatian Science Foundation: Project CEASCRO, Grants 8071 and 9522.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, CEASCRO ProjectUniversity of RijekaRijekaCroatia

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