Psychopathy, Mental Time Travel, and Legal Responsibility
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- Vierra, A. Neuroethics (2016) 9: 129. doi:10.1007/s12152-015-9243-6
Neil Levy argues that the degree to which psychopaths ought to be held blameworthy for their actions depends on the extent to which they are capable of mental time travel—episodic memory and episodic foresight. Levy claims that deficits in mental time travel prevent psychopaths from fully appreciating what it is to be a person, and, without this understanding, we can at best hold psychopaths blameworthy for harming non-persons. In this paper, I build upon and clarify various aspects of Levy’s view. Specifically, I begin by outlining the neurobiological data on mental time travel, and I argue that psychopaths, or at least some psychopaths, appear to have the deficits Levy ascribes to them. I then expand upon the legal implications of his argument by using an analogy between juveniles and psychopaths to argue that the penological justification for retributive punishment against psychopaths ought to be substantially diminished.