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Science of conscience: Metaphysics, morality, and rhetoric in psychopathy research

Resource type
Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
The psychopathy project – a term used here to describe the various efforts to establish psychopathy as an object of science – has existed in one form or another for over two hundred years. At present, it enjoys wide popularity in the social sciences as well as in popular imagination. The present work is an analysis of the psychopathy project’s logical coherence. The present work examines, among other things, the claims that psychopathy is either a medical condition or a mental illness. Also examined is the logic of various causal theories of psychopathy as well as the argument that a diagnosis of psychopathy is not an act of moral condemnation. In this context, the logical continuity between modern psychopathy research and the late 19th century theory of degeneration is discussed. Finally, a number of rhetorical strategies used by the psychopathy project are studied. The work concludes by providing recommendations for improving the logical coherence and intellectual integrity of the psychopathy project. Such improvement is seen as necessary, since throughout the present work the project is shown to suffer from a number of serious logical confusions and deliberate mischaracterizations of its scientific merits.
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