RE: Evil ? (was: Hypostases (was: Natural Order & Belief)

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 01:01:20 +1100

Bruno marchal writes:

> > Even if it is presented as good for society, the child may accept that
> > because of feelings of empathy for others.
> OK. Note that such an "empathy" is hard wired in our biological
> constitution. Many mammals seems to have it at some degree. Some form
> of autism are described by pathological loss of that empathy. Perhaps
> Stathis could say more.

Autism, psychopathy and psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia can all involve
a loss of empathy. It is sometimes said that autistic children lack a "theory of mind"
so that they can see others as being like themselves, with a similar view of the
world to themselves. As they grow up, they realise intellectually that other people
are like them but it seems that they lack the intuitive grasp of this fact that non-
-autistic individuals have.

People with schizophrenia can develop a blunting of affect, which perhaps is a
different process but can have the same effect. They may be able to compare
their feelings to when they were well and may say things like, "I can longer feel
things like I used to, I know I ought to feel happy when others around me are
happy and sad when something sad happens, but I feel nothing, I just register
the facts".

Psychopaths are different again in that they usually have a full range of affect,
understand that others may suffer as they do, but don't care and can't understand
why they should care, other than to keep the legal authorities happy. Young
children are all psychopathic: they refrain from behaving badly only because they
might get punished. As they grow up, they internalise the "good" and "bad"
behaviour paterns so that they seem to have these characteristics intrinsically.

Autism and schizophrenia are almost always dysfunctional conditions, but intelligent
psychopaths often do very well, in business and politics for example, because they
can lie and manipulate people without compunction. In fact, they often seem
unusually charming and likable when you first meet them, because they have learned
to act the way that will best serve their selfish purposes. It is conceivable that an
entire society of psychopaths might be able to function with rules of conduct
similar to the moral rules that most normal societies live by, but arrived at in a practical
and dispassionate manner. That is, thieves are punished because it is expedient to do
so in the same way as it is expedient to take an umbrella with you if expecting rain,
and saying "theft is wrong" is like saying "rain is wrong".

Stathis Papaioannou
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Received on Sat Dec 23 2006 - 09:01:39 PST

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