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Category: Philosophy and Psychology

Date Submitted: 09/26/2012 08:31 AM

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Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) used the phrase ‘insanity without delirium’, Hervey Cleckley (1903-1984; In Pitchford, 2001) coined the term ‘Psychopathy’, the World Health Organization prefers ‘Dissocial Personality Disorder’, the American Psychiatric Association favours ‘Antisocial Personality Disorder’, British Legislation employs the term ‘Psychopathic Disorder’ and the Department of Health (DoH) is enthusiastic about the designation, ‘Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder’. The problem the author sees here is clearly one of concept definition and rightly so, the only conclusion that seems warrantable is that at some time or other and by some reputable authority the term psychopathic personality has been used to designate every conceivable type of abnormal character’ (Curran and Mallinson, 1944; In Cleckley, 1976, p11).

The author will begin by orienting the reader to the importance of ‘definition’ in the professional and scientific community, subsequently defining and explaining the many descriptions used interchangeably with the term ‘Psychopathy’. For the purposes of this paper, the author will refer to the collective concepts as ‘psychopathy’ but this in no way reflects bias toward that particular designation. Following this, the numerous descriptions of ‘Psychopathy’ will be compared, contrasted and their interrelationships discussed and finally, the author will postulate a way forward, demonstrating the importance of a ‘unified’ definition of ‘psychopathy’.

The Concept ‘Psychopathy’

What is it that defines the concept ‘Psychopathy’? To begin, we need a brief description of ‘concept’. According to Corsini (1999), a concept is the end product of an idea that relates various elements to one another in a unique manner. The concept ‘Psychopathy’ is an elusive notion of particular traits, behaviour, affect and thought patterns opposing the ‘norm’. The difficulty comes in defining a concept in which the constructs that relate to each...