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  • David Shoemaker is Associate Professor in both the Department of Philosophy and the Murphy Institute at Tulane University, as well as an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Personal Identity and Ethics: A Brief Introduction (Broadview, 2009) as well as numerous papers on a variety of issues in moral psychology, agency and responsibility, and the relation between metaphysics and ethics.


In this paper, I attempt to show that the moral/conventional distinction simply cannot bear the sort of weight many theorists have placed on it for determining the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. After revealing the fractured nature of the distinction, I go on to suggest how one aspect of it may remain relevant—in a way that has previously been unappreciated—to discussions of the responsibility of psychopaths. In particular, after offering an alternative explanation of the available data on psychopaths and their judgments of various sorts of norm transgressions, I put forward a hybrid theory of their responsibility, suggesting how they might be criminally responsible, while nevertheless failing to meet the conditions for an important arena of moral responsibility.