Re: Sociopaths (was Re: Reforming Education)

Robert Owen (
Sun, 10 Oct 1999 23:18:14 -0400

Zeb Haradon wrote:

> ........................................... The only significant difference
> recall between the definition I read, and the one you cite, is that the one
> I read claimed that sociopaths disregard traditional ethical and moral
> standards in favor of morality of their own invention which suits their own
> needs. It also mentioned an experiment in which a sociopath is given a brief
> electric shock, and told that in 5 minutes they will recieve another one.
> Their stress responses were measured during those 5 minutes of waiting, and
> were found to be much lower then the control group of non-sociopaths.
> I was somewhat surprised that this is regarded as a form of mental
> deficiency.

No sociopath (or "psychopath" -- a term in disfavor) ever believes he has done anything "wrong" and, in an almost autistic way, simply can't understand why everyone is making such a fuss. This is quite consistent with a primitive, solipsistic "morality" which is nothing but an unquestioning implementation of any need without reservation, generalizations from relevant prior experience, or predictions of probable future consequences. Some people have indeed decided this disorder is essentially a learning disability, and who therefore believe that the "moral" self-regulation of the process of decision-making is nothing but learned behavior. It is not even clear that this person conceptualizes alternatives when experiencing the pressure to act.

> The only thing I can't figure out is why so many sociopaths lack
> responsibility, and a respect for the rights of others (i.e. why they often
> end up becomming mass murderers).

The absence of frustration-tolerance with respect especially to aggressive (they do learn bladder and bowel control) impulses, and their solipsistic or schizoform isolation of affect and volition from their social environment, as discussed above, makes this condition exactly what you would expect. "Responsibility", "rights", "obligations" and identification with "real" others (we call it "empathy") are simply concepts and processes which have no apparent meaning whatever to the sociopath.

Thanks, Zeb, for your reply,


Robert M. Owen
The Orion Institute
57 W. Morgan Street
Brevard, NC 28712-3659 USA