A Philosopher Talks with Psychopaths


“One of the striking features of people on psychiatric wards is how much their conversation is about topics also discussed in philosophy journals.” One thing they have in common is an awareness that “the common-sense interpretation of the world is not the only one”.

That’s Jonathan Glover (King’s College London), quoted in a review at New Scientist of his latest book, Alien Landscapes? Intepreting Disordered Minds

Glover decided to take [the Socratic method] to Broadmoor Hospital in the south of England. There he probed a common stereotype about psychopaths – that they lack a conscience – by discussing ethics with them…. Many of the men had a “vocabulary of moral concepts”, and by carefully directing his questions, he found ethical qualities mapping onto those concepts, such as fairness and respect. For Glover, it was a bridge between psychopaths and the rest of us, because it showed there are many dimensions to the disorder, and most of them overlap with personality traits of some people deemed normal.

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