We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Sociopathy seems to be, to some extent, bred in the bone. As I have discussed here in the past, it's about a cool indifference to others, often while presenting a mask of warm caring and self-sacrifice (the so-called Mask of Sanity). It's about an easy ability to lie to your face, and it's usually not about violence and murder.
High IQ sociopaths fool shrinks all the time and we kick ourselves every time we finally realize it. Often, they confess things as red herrings for us. They tend to have ulterior motives, but do not mention them to us at all. People who repeatedly lie to shrinks generally have sociopathic traits, at the least. They tend to have an assortment of other symptoms and problem behaviors also, such as substance abuse, shame, narcissism, blaming, exploitative relationships, and anxiety. They always have an excuse at the ready, tend to be impulsive, and always have their self-interest in mind.
Could a psychopath mount a legal defense by saying “my brain made me do it”? Or my “genes made me do it”? Is this any different from saying my rotten childhood made me do it? Psychopaths know right from wrong – they just don’t care. That is what society calls “bad”, not “mad”. But if they are constitutionally incapable of caring, can they really be blamed for it? On the other hand, if violent psychopaths are a continuing danger to society and completely refractory to rehabilitation, what is to be done with them?
Don't ask me. Just keep them out of my office. They are Very Bad News for soft-hearted gullible trusting folks like me.
The question of sociopathy is very tough. I'm sure sociopathy occurs along a continuum. I know I'd rather make an excuse than take punishment myself, even to myself, yet I don't think I'm a sociopath. I would rather maintin my own standard of living than give it up; I'd rather advance it than have it decline, so my self-interest is on my mind. But I don't think I would sacrifice anyone else's well-being for my own and I often give up something I'd like because my family needs something, or to support my church, or for charity.
The question of responsibility is even more difficult. If a person could control his/her actions and does not, that's responsibility. But if one has no empathy -- if one knows legal from illegal, harmful from responsible, and doesn't care -- is that a failure or does the person lack a gift that most of us have? Is responsibility like faith? And if so, is it a gift or an achievement?
This is academic for me at the moment, but I have a jury summons at home. Next week, it may go from academic to part of an important decision.