, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 129–136

Psychopathy, Mental Time Travel, and Legal Responsibility

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12152-015-9243-6

Cite this article as:
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.


Moral responsibility Neil levy Psychopathy Personhood Harm Blame Mental time travel Episodic memory Episodic foresight Punishment Neuroethics Retribution Juvenile justice Miller v Alabama 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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