Being Amoral

From Philosophical Psychopathology

Being Amoral

Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity

Edited by Thomas Schramme

Investigations of specific moral dysfunctions or deficits that shed light on the capacities required for moral agency.





Investigations of specific moral dysfunctions or deficits that shed light on the capacities required for moral agency.

Psychopathy has been the subject of investigations in both philosophy and psychiatry and yet the conceptual issues remain largely unresolved. This volume approaches psychopathy by considering the question of what psychopaths lack. The contributors investigate specific moral dysfunctions or deficits, shedding light on the capacities people need to be moral by examining cases of real people who seem to lack those capacities.

The volume proceeds from the basic assumption that psychopathy is not characterized by a single deficit—for example, the lack of empathy, as some philosophers have proposed—but by a range of them. Thus contributors address specific deficits that include impairments in rationality, language, fellow-feeling, volition, evaluation, and sympathy. They also consider such issues in moral psychology as moral motivation, moral emotions, and moral character; and they examine social aspects of psychopathic behavior, including ascriptions of moral responsibility, justification of moral blame, and social and legal responses to people perceived to be dangerous.

As this volume demonstrates, philosophers will be better equipped to determine what they mean by “the moral point of view” when they connect debates in moral philosophy to the psychiatric notion of psychopathy, which provides some guidance on what humans need in order be able to feel the normative pull of morality. And the empirical work done by psychiatrists and researchers in psychopathy can benefit from the conceptual clarifications offered by philosophy.

ContributorsGwen Adshead, Piers Benn, John Deigh, Alan Felthous, Kerrin Jacobs, Heidi Maibom, Eric Matthews, Henning Sass, Thomas Schramme, Susie Scott, David Shoemaker, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Matthew Talbert


$50.00 X ISBN: 9780262027915 344 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 1 b&w illus.


Thomas Schramme

Thomas Schramme is Professor of Philosophy at Hamburg University.


  • Philosophers and psychologists love psychopaths. They seem like a test case which was tailor-made to probe contested claims and theories... Being Amoral provides a good overview of the current state of debate regarding psychopathy and the diagnostic, conceptual and practical issues associated with it... a valuable contribution to the literature, which I recommend to anyone working in moral psychology and empirically informed meta-ethics.

    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

  • Psychopathy is an endlessly fascinating disorder for philosophers and lay people alike. Thomas Schramme has collected 12 essays from leading researchers to explore the nature and implications of psychopathic amorality. (T)his valuable collection (...) will shed further light on what is required for moral agency, moral community, and moral responsibility.

    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

  • The essays in this book are thoughtful and well-written. The editor Thomas Schramme ably summarises the many conceptual problems that arise when we examine the morality of psychopaths. This book will appeal to psychiatrists with an interest in moral philosophy and to forensic psychiatrists who have to deal with patients so labelled.

    British Journal of Psychiatry