Our discussion host! Walter is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He is core faculty in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences.
The DukeReads selection for May/June 2014 is The Psychopath Whisperer by Kent Kiehl, and Professor Walter Sinnott-Armstrong will be leading the discussion on the book.We will be posting questions for you to comment on as you read the book. Please feel free to respond to the questions or comment on other people’s posts within the blog. Also, we are arranging for an online conversation with the author! More information on that to come!
We asked Walter why he chose this book. Here’s what he said:
“Psychopaths are less than one percent of the population, but they commit over 30% of the violent crime in the United States. This book explains what psychopaths are, the history of this diagnosis, and the only method of treatment that works. It is filled with fascinating personal stories, because the author has decades of years of experience working with psychopaths in prisons. He is also a top neuroscientist who insists on accuracy while making the story accessible and lively. Alumni will have fun reading it, and they will learn how to critically evaluate the many misleading representations of psychopaths in popular media.”
Find out more about Walter here: http://sites.duke.edu/wsa/
In Chapter 1, Gordon, Grant, and Bob are diagnosed as psychopaths. In what ways are they similar? In what ways are they different? What do these cases show you about the diagnosis of psychopathy?
Chapter 2 discusses the history of psychopathy diagnoses. How has our understanding of psychopathy changed over the years?
Box 2 on pages 46-47 lists the 20 items in the psychopathy check list. For each item, how would you decide whether to give someone 0, 1, or 2 on that item? Which items seem more important that the others?
In Chapter 3, do you disagree with Kiehl’s scores for any items in his diagnoses of Booth and Guiteau. Why?
In Chapter 4, Shock Richie says, “Well, you ain’t never met anyone like me.” Have you ever met anyone like Shock Richie? Who? How are they like Shock Richie? How are they different?
In Chapters 4-5, how, if at all, does neuroscience help us understand psychopaths?
Chapter 6 discusses childhood disorders. Can you tell whether a child is going to grow up to be a psychopath? How or why not?
Part of Chapter 7 discusses female psychopaths. How do female psychopaths differ from male psychopaths? Why?
Chapter 8 explains why professionals do not call adolescents (below the age of 18) “psychopaths.” Why not? Is this policy good?