Re: Sociopaths (was Re: Reforming Education)

Robert Owen (
Mon, 11 Oct 1999 02:01:15 -0400

Zeb Haradon wrote:

> Your definition of sociopath (below) is a more accurate one, and one which
> distinguishes it from 'indivisualist', which an introductory psychology
> book, or a folk-definition, fails to do. What I'll ask you now is, do you
> consider someone who is self-centered, egotistical, and selfish, yet
> respectful of the rights of others (does not kill, steal, rape, or lie to
> attain his ends), to be a sociopath? I am asking this in regard to your
> first usage of the word -

<The Standard Diagnostic Nomenclature of the American Psychiatric Association includes in its description of "sociopathy" "the inability to experience shame or guilt" and "the absence of internalized ethical or moral standards of conduct", i.e. conscience, and in general "displays an amorphous hostile disregard of society".>

I would want to know the motivation of this "respect for the rights of others" in order to predict the individual's behavior in a "two men in a boat with one coconut" situation. How likely is it that he would not optimize his survival chances by rejecting sharing. Remember, that in a "state of nature", i.e. where neither Government nor Law nor institutionalized enforcement of Law exists "Might makes Right" is the prevalent ethic. In terms of the case you describe, I predict he would seize the coconut and throw the other man overboard if superior in physical strength.

Now there is something called a "hedonistic calculus" to describe the cunning displayed by an asocial individual (just as some autistic adults have learned to impersonate emotional states and pretend to feel the feelings of others) who is shrewd enough to realize that it is in his best interests to avoid the APPEARANCE of selfishness and that displaying the respect you describe is the easiest way to induce the cooperation of others. The is NOT a morally-significant "respect" -- it is simply a case of an unstable symbiosis which in an emergency can deteriorate to parasitism and finally cannibalism.


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