My friend and fellow blogger, Lucky Otter, brought up the above-captioned question on her blog. She reasoned, “Psychopaths are free agents. So I was thinking about the possibility that some psychopaths may not choose evil because being evil simply doesn’t interest them. Maybe they just enjoy engaging in positive or beneficial activities instead, not to help others (because they have no empathy) but just because they enjoy those things over doing evil things.” In this argument, she echoed my own reasoning in Free to Choose that pointed out that just because psychopaths are free do do “evil” doesn’t compel us to do so.
In replying to this question, Just Plain Ol’ Vic said the quality of “goodness” required something called a “moral compass.” Lucky Otter agreed that a person must be good “for the sake of being good” in order to deserve to be seen as good. I guess a child can’t be good then as children just do what is natural to them. Most people think kids are naturally good or, at least, innocent. But this wouldn’t cut it with Vic and Otter.
Alex, who claims to have been raised by a psychopath, infers the “Knowledge” that we do good “only for the deep pleasure of ripping that good apart.” Not being as omniscient as Alex, I cannot claim to even know what that means. We are good in order to rip the “good” apart? Whatever…
Alaina, who does not want to be linked, wisely pointed out that the answer to the question depends on one’s definition of “good.” Lucky begged the question by defining “good” as what isn’t “bad.”
BPD Transformation believes that we only want power to hurt others. Mary Pranzatelli suggested that malignant narcissism and psychopathy are part of a spectrum but said that psychopaths really enjoy hurting people. I believe that both BPD Transformation and Mary Pranzatelli confuse “psychopath” with “sadist.” Psychopathy is more “an extreme emotional detachment” which can make us cold and uncaring but doesn’t compel us to be sadists. Of course, some psychopaths are sadists as are some empaths. Indeed, in order to be truly cruel, one must have a degree of empathy. How can we take pleasure in causing pain if we have no understanding of what pain is in the other person?
Godless Cranium brought up the concept of the “pro-social psychopath” who contributes to society with actual “beneficial” behavior. Lucky countered that these “pro-social psychopaths” who stay on the “right” side of the law often cause harm in their capacity in corporate business people. The concept of the pro-social psychopath is different from the concept of the “good” psychopath in interesting ways. The moral significance of the “pro social” has been discussed and debated by Tina Taylor and James and myself. The gist is that Tina thinks psychopaths are destructive whatever role we play in society. We just can’t help ourselves. We are predators out to get “decent people.” She only addresses herself to those “decent” ones, telling them how to protect themselves from us. This view of psychopaths is very wide-spread and usually accepted as axiomatic by people who have never bothered to get to know one of us (although they probably have known some of us unknowingly — since we are forced to protect ourselves by wearing a camouflaging mask). M.E. Thomas says “I believe that most people who interact with sociopaths are better off than they otherwise would be,” Confessions of a Sociopath. Many people flood the internet with sad tales of how they were hurt by one of us in their personal relationships. Since interpersonal relationships often involve a certain amount of pain, heartache and chaos whether there is a psychopath involved or not, I am skeptical about how much these stories inform us of the psychopath’s nature. Demonizing us is likely to color people’s perceptions of their experiences with our kind. Scientists are forever warning us of trying to prove something with “anecdotal evidence.” My own advice in dealing with a psychopath up close and personal is to remain self-aware. Be honest with yourself and you are less likely to be conned.
The wisest blogger in this discussion, Alaina, informs us that Lucky Otter has actually been bashed for daring to even ask if we can be good “in a certain small segment of the narcissistic abuse blogging community.” I am personally fascinated by this community which I study even as they study us. They seem very cultish to me.
Dennis said something at this point that was so right-on, I wish to quote him at length:
Anyone who has endured the machinations of ***preds*** is likely to think large portions of society is composed of people like those same preds (raises hand…)When one is judged by much of society as if one were ‘not fully human’ (much as untouchables are regarded in and around India) then one learns to ***avoid*** the majority of people simply because to do otherwise is acutely ***dangerous***.
Be glad we don’t have ‘Nuremberg Laws’ or ‘Hindutva’ sanctifying Normdom’s instinct-driven prejudices – as then the danger in being an ***outcaste*** (not misspelled!) would be fully as lethal as it is and was elsewhere.
It turns out he is speaking of autists. He could have been speaking of psychopaths. We have been “judged…as…’not fully human’ ad nauseum. Those who are judging us in this discussion, please take note.
Lucky Otter made a very valuable contribution to the discussion when she said,
Someone at a forum I post on said a typical pro-social psychopath would be someone who bounces around all the time, has a high energy level as if they’re always jacked up on Red Bull and never worries about anything and isn’t afraid of anything. They’re risk takers and always ready to dive into new projects and don’t worry about what you might think. They tend to be outgoing and likable and because their emotions are so shallow, they don’t experience much depression or anxiety and as a result seem to always be in a good mood. You would never think of them as a psychopath but they are. True psychopathy may not be a pathology at all but a personality type.
Since psychopathy has been removed from the DSM, it seems even the APA agrees that we are not “disordered.” And, if that were not enough, Robert Hare has said the same thing.
Most of the bloggers here seem to make a big distinction between how we behave and what we are inside. Interesting, since that difference was the very reason the APA removed psychopathy from the DSM. Their behaviorist slant rejects inner, subjective consciousness from “scientific” consideration. But this is the very distinction many here consider most important. A psychopath may be a fine surgeon or athlete but he still has no conscience, for goodness sake! How can he or she be good? As I have explained, our freedom from conscience gives us the freedom to be what we choose. Perhaps that very freedom makes a “good” choice even more praiseworthy. We don’t have a conscience nagging us into doing what we think is “right.”
However, as I said in the comments section of Lucky Otter’s blog, I thing “good” and “evil” are subjective values and I reject anyone’s right to judge me. God judges (if you can believe in such a thing). What fellow human can judge me as if s/he were god?