In my novel True Monsters Detective Virginia Smythe has to call favours from her longstanding political ally Rob K. Oldsole, fictional Mayor of Victoria and supporting character.
His character can be defined as a “Good Sociopath”. To understand what I mean by that, let's examine the traits of a “normal” sociopath.
To a "high-functioning" sociopath, every single action he (or she) takes is mechanical. It's devoid (by and large) of emotions; of human feelings; of sincerity; of compassion. Everything has an angle; every action is carefully-calculated. They anticipate your moves; they plan five, ten, fifteen steps ahead. In their heads, when they look at the "chess board" of life, they "know" what their moves will be under all kinds of scenarios (in the board).
"Normal" people are highly-influenced by emotions, and feelings. If something bad happens, when they cry in angst, they really feel like crying. When they are worried, they look worried; when they are sad, they look sad. If someone hurts their feelings, they look hurt. When they express an opinion (most of the time), that's really what they believe. In other words, with "normal" people, what you see, is what you get. They are genuine.
To a "high-functioning" sociopath, "normal" people are chumps to be manipulated and taken advantage of.
They observe you; they analyze you; they find out what makes you tick. They find out what your believes are; they play on your emotions. If you are motivated by praise (as most of us are), then he praises you; he tells you how smart are; how good looking; how friendly.
And once he gains your trust, he manipulates you and uses you to get what he wants; to get ahead. He uses every tool at his disposal in every single step of the "game" of life, to get what he wants. When that tool is the ability to manipulate people is all he has, then that's what he uses. When that tool is raw power over you, then he'll use that.
Because of the nature of "power," "normal" people could never, ever, be in charge; rule the world; rule the top organization, and businesses, and society. The "high-functioning" sociopath will always be in charge, unless, of course, we are some how able to build an Utopian society.
I do think that there is a difference between these "leaders" that rule (everything.) And the difference is their motivation.
You have the sociopath that's motivated by pure greed and lust for power. Those are usually the tyrants that rise to the top to rule many societies. That would characterize much of the power structure in the U.S. today, where you have a sociopathic pack of hyenas (as it were) at the top of the power structure, in the form of criminal Wall Street bankers, and organizations like ALEC, etc. And the sycophantic, money-grabbing and corrupt political power structure (both major parties) that use their power to manipulate, subjugate, exploit, and now beat up peaceful protesters in the face (by the new "brown shirts" that are now the "white shirts" tools of the system).
And then, of course, there is (what I term) the "Good Sociopath."
The good sociopath interacts with "normal" people much in the same way that the "bad sociopath" does... There are no emotions involved; every move is calculative (20 steps ahead); he (or she) knows what to do (or how to react) given any particular situation.
However their motivation is different. They are not motivated by greed and lust of power. They are motivated by an altruistic world view. They understand the awesome power they have over others (by the fact that they have no emotions, by and large), and they seek to use that power to help bring about (what they believe is) a better world.
My take is that the "bad" high-functioning sociopaths outnumber the good ones, probably 10 to 1, and that's because since they are mainly motivated by unadulterated greed, you'll find most of them in the "business" side of things, versus government.
What I term as the the "Good Sociopath" usually becomes useful to societies in times of social strife and struggle against oppression.
The reason for that is because, being as much of a sociopath as the oppressors, he understands the mindset. He understands how they think. He anticipates their next moves, and prepares for it. Again, everything is mechanical, automated, devoid of real human emotions, and hence, extremely efficient and effective.
He understands where the "weak" spots are in the power structure; he accurately understands what power (or lack thereof) is available to him, and how to use it.
And the most important part of all, he would know the right moment when he has the power and influence to completely annihilate his opponent, and when that time comes, will do it without hesitation, and without compassion.
This is essentially the character of Oldsole. He is in a position of authority and uses his influence to manipulate people and events to bring about change or peace within his community. He is uncompromising and every word is a statement.
In the third novel of my True Monsters series, Mayor Oldsole will feature as the main protagonist.
The second novel is yet to be written for this series, but it will feature Dr. Adam Manikin and his character will be fleshed out in regards to utilitarian Bio-ethics.
Is murder immoral? This plays into my novel True Monsters quiet significantly. To a nihilistic philosophy all morality is subject to personal preference, while to others (numerous others) it is something outside of our own will. This is something that Overman (the murderer in my novel) addresses, and Detective Virginia Smythe wrestles with.
Murder is wrong and the Earth is round.
The difference between "the earth is round" and "ice cream is good" is one is a statement of fact, the other is a judgement. Statements of fact like "the earth is round" are more or less tautological (assuming they are true)- "roundness" is a feature of our concept of "earth." So if we ask "Why is the earth round?" the answer is "because it's the earth." That it is round is a given of it being the earth. However, saying "ice cream is good" is not subjective if you add the hypothetical "if we are talking about taste" and the qualifier "to me." "If we are talking about taste, ice cream is good to me" is an objective truth (unless I am lying)- who could argue with what I say I enjoy? But there is nothing in the concept of "ice cream" that makes it so. I must apply a subjective judgement to make this statement true.
Now look at it this way. We are discussing the nutritional benefits of certain foods, and I say "Ice cream is good to me." This is not an objective truth, because I am not making a judgement. "Unhealthy" is included in the concept of ice cream, so there is no judgement to be made. Here we add the hypothetical "if I want to be nutritious." The statement becomes "If I want to be nutritious, ice cream is not good for me." This is true because the feature "unhealthy" is included in the larger concept "ice cream."
As this applies to murder, there is a tautological objective truth. Murder is loosely defined as "an immoral killing." "Immoral" is a feature of the concept of "murder." So the answer to the question "Why is murder immoral?" is simply "Because it is murder." However, the question of "Is this specific killing immoral?" (i.e., is it murder) requires a possibly subjective judgement, which also requires a hypothetical. "If we are interested in maintaining society," is a possible hypothetical here. "If we are interested in maintaining society, then that specific killing is a murder" does require a subjective judgement, but comes very close to a sort of objective truth. It does leave us open to some grey areas (like capital punishment and abortion), but in my opinion it's as close as we can come to an objective statement on why killing is wrong (Outside of the concept of the sanctity of life, where we could go on endlessly on what life is more sanctified than another in terms of capital punishment and abortion).
We do demand a justification for the conclusion that the world is round, which is that when we look at, it is in fact round. Believing it to be round is not a justification. We don't demand more of moral judgements. In both instances, we want there to be some justification. We might say that murder is wrong because to allow murder would make society less happy than if we prohibited it. That would be an objective basis for concluding it.
Of course the issue is not quite so simple. We don't, in fact, determine that murder is wrong because we find that it fails under Utilitarian principles (or any theory for that matter). We first itemize what we intuitively know to be immoral, and then in hindsight we construct a theory that attempts to explain why those items are on our list. Should the theory place something on the list that we intuitively know should not be there (e.g. we should kill an innocent person to calm our irrational society), we then tinker with our theory or disregard it altogether. This means that our justification is really nothing more than an attempt at an explanation for our intuition.
Anyhow, this may be beside the point. The question remains whether the wrongness of murder says something about the world at large or whether it simply says something about particular humans and their disdain for murder. If I say that murder is right and you say it is wrong, are we disagreeing, or are we simply telling one another whether it is right or wrong to us (much like ice cream may be good to you, but not to me)?
Well, if we determine whether the world is round by looking at it, and that is adequate, don't we determine whether we or others feel murder is wrong in a similarly non-subjective manner, by "feeling" as we do and ascertaining what others think by asking them or observing their reactions and conduct? We don't as far as I know demand that, once we have looked at the world and have seen it is round, we further establish that the fact we have looked at it is sufficient justification for our claim that it is round. Nevertheless, we require justification for the claim that murder is wrong above and beyond the fact that we are horrified by it. Horror is not enough in the one case; looking is enough in the other. I would say the wrongness of murder does say something about "the world at large" because we humans are very much a part of the world, and what we are considering is human conduct. I understand of course there may be those who maintain that murder is just fine, and there are those who commit murder, but might this be accounted for by the fact that the data under consideration (humans) are complex, and the inferences or conclusions to be drawn are thus necessarily less precise than in other cases? Most humans deplore murder. Most worlds are round. Why should most humans deplore murder? Why should most worlds be round? It seems we insist on asking the first question, but not the second.
Evidently we treat our own desires and conduct as special cases. Do we do so because we continue to believe that we are somehow apart from everything else, not subject to the same rules governing other parts of the universe?
My conclusion is that ice cream makes morality very sticky.
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Because I fail to update daily.