Moral Death: A Kantian Essay on Psychopathy

Ethics, Vol. 82, p. 284, 1972

15 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2009

See all articles by Jeffrie G. Murphy

Jeffrie G. Murphy

Arizona State University College of Law

Date Written: 1972


This article is concerned with an examination of the rights and responsibilities of those individuals having what psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, and psychologists call psychopathic, sociopathic, or antisocial personalities. It invokes a Kantian theme, however, because in coming to terms with the concept of psycopathy, one is also forced to come to terms with the question of what it is to be a person with dignity and thereby meriting that special kind of respect which is entailed by a moral commitment to justice rather than mere utility. While the author first addressed this issue in his book Kant: The Philosophy of Right, this article expands further on this issue and constitutes a significant rejection of that book’s arguments. While, in the book, the author argued that it is a capacity to choose and not moral autonomy which confers dignity or worth upon persons, this article reverses that position and argues that it is moral autonomy and not capacity to choose which confers dignity or worthy on persons. No one had articulated a theoretical defense for this position, however, and this article attempts to fill that theoretical gap.

Keywords: Psychopathic, Sociopathic, Antisocial Personalities, Immanuel Kant, Human Personhood

Suggested Citation

Murphy, Jeffrie G., Moral Death: A Kantian Essay on Psychopathy (1972). Ethics, Vol. 82, p. 284, 1972, Available at SSRN:

Jeffrie G. Murphy (Contact Author)

Arizona State University College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
(480) 965-5856 (Phone)
(480) 965-2427 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics