Sunday, July 19, 2020

Cleckley On Psychopathy

The psychopath…is incapable of kindness and consideration for the rights of others, and he is lacking in gratitude, affection, or compassion…..Whether judged in light of his conduct, or his attitude, or of material elicited I psychiatric examination, he shows almost no sense of shame…He does not…show the slightest evidence of major humiliation or regret. This is true of matters pertaining to his personal and selfish pride and to esthetic standards that he avows as well as to moral and humanitarian matters. If Santayana is correct in saying that “perhaps the true dignity of man is the ability to despise himself,” the psychopath is without a means to acquire true dignity. (Hervey Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity, 4th ed. St, Louis, 1964.)
In other words, "I don't take responsibility at all."


Kevin said...

Let's not go political. Hard to find decent conversations without them being soured.

A psychopath could still be responsible for her own actions, but those actions would be based upon a set of standards alien to the majority of us.

It is interesting that someone who does not care about the thoughts of others still feels the need to shift blame, not to mention that they appear capable of grasping others' empathy enough to manipulate people.

StardustyPsyche said...

I suspect Victor was taking a thinly veiled swipe at Trump. The giveaway is the last quoted line.

Kevin said...

If so, that's disappointing.

StardustyPsyche said...

"I don't take responsibility at all."
Into google. All 10 of the first page hits are Trump commentary.

I have been following Covid-19 developments in some detail and I recognized that line as a quote Trump was widely lambasted for.

Kevin said...

It also takes what could be an interesting conversation and makes it yet another dig at Trump, when the world already knows where Victor stands on that.

As I said. Disappointing.

Kevin said...

To be clear, I thought this was a continuation of the soft determinism thread, from a different angle.

Kevin said...

I was unaware of that being a Trump line, so I apologize for my assumption.

StardustyPsyche said...

Oh snaps, that's it then, I am not really the flaming @#^%!$#%&^*^@#!@ everybody says I am...

...I'm just misunderstood!!!

Kevin said...

Doesn't really matter if you have no choice to be different, right?

Victor Reppert said...

Psychopathy is an interesting subject, and what it does to moral responsibility if the person is a psychopath is also an interesting subject. So is the subject of whether it can be reasonable for someone to vote for a psychopath if that psychopath provides support for one's political positions. Just take the Crummett-McIntosh dialogue, and figure out on what side you find yourself. in fact, imagine yourself on each side of the liberal-conservative
spectrum. Then, assuming that you are on that side, under what circumstances. Imagine yourself agreeing fully with the left or with the right, and imagine yourself as passionate about some of the issues. (For many Christian conservatives, the abortion issue makes the passionate. For liberals it's what? Health care? Or maybe abortion going the other way?). Then imagine that you are faced with evidence that the candidate on your side of the aisle in American politics is a psychopath. Supporting the other party means a setback for your desired political result. Supporting the candidate of your party exposes the country to the Presidency of a pscyhopath. If your politics depends on the judiciary, one argument can be that judges serve for a lifetime, while Presidents serve only eight years maximum. Are there any circumstances under which it is reasonable to vote for someone you strongly suspect to be a psychopath? My inclination is no, because a psychopathic President is a threat to the integrity of our system of government. So, no matter where I imagine myself on the political spectrum, I would rather see someone on the other side of the spectrum elected that a psychopath on my own side. But that is just me.

And, yes, I think Trump is a psychopath. But I prefer to put this issue in general terms, so that someone on the Left can ask whether they would accept a psychopathic Leftist as President. If you are on the Left, would you prefer a Leftist version of Donald Trump over a nonpsychopathic George W. Bush?

Kevin said...

If you are on the Left, would you prefer a Leftist version of Donald Trump over a nonpsychopathic George W. Bush?

Now that is a fascinating question. What has Trump done that exceeds the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, and subsequent events like ISIS that are still being felt to this day and likely for several administrations come?

Give me Trump and Bush, and a gun to my head that I had to vote for one, I would vote Trump ten times out of ten. Apparently even a psychopath can look good if he isn't responsible for hundreds of thousands of corpses.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic makes a good point. Trump is too self-involved to care about throwing away the lives of soldiers in some vision of the world, unlike Bush (or Clinton).

I remember listening to an NPR story about a neurologist who studied psychopathy and brain lesions. He checked his own brain and found a similar lesion. He talked to his wife and daughters, and discovered that he had behaved with a callousness that indicated he was in some manner a psychopath. Yet he had managed to be married for decades, raise children, etc.

Perhaps being a psychopath is not an immediate disqualifier.

StardustyPsyche said...

Per the question Victor posed, "If you are on the Left, would you prefer a Leftist version of Donald Trump over a nonpsychopathic George W. Bush?", I note that is glaringly hypothetical. Why is that?

Why is it that in the last 30 years Republican presidents keep leading us to massively bloody wars, borrowing vast amounts of money, cutting health care, and implementing policies that lead to economic collapse?

Whereas Democratic presidents in the last 30 years bring deficits down, even eliminating federal borrowing altogether, use our military forces prudently, increase health care, and work for years to clean up the messes of the previous Republican administrations?

We on the left are not faced with your conservative dilemmas. We vote in the primaries for solid public servants who are highly educated, highly qualified, personally stable, respectful of the dignity of the office, committed to sound economic policies including debt reduction, and who move the ball forward on environmental, social safety net, and health care options.

When are Republicans going to get back to putting up candidates like Dwight Eisenhower? Well, maybe you can say Bob Dole, fair enough, perhaps even John McCain, or even Mitt Romney, fine, but those kinds of guys just don't seem to draw the enthusiasm on the right needed to win.

It seems that to get the masses of folks on the right excited enough to come out and vote the Republicans have to put up a C student cowboy, or a thuggish con man, who seem to be the Red State everyman kind of guy that gets in by a minority squeaking out the electoral votes from the Red States, while the the majority get locked out again wondering how such a large minority could vote for such obvious ignoramuses and criminals.

Who have been our disaster presidents in the last 30 years? What do they have in common?
Underqualified or grossly unqualified for the job.
Most people in the USA voted for the other person.
Very popular in the Red States.
Led the country to disasters such as vastly increased federal debt, massively bloody wars, and economic meltdowns that then led to more massive borrowing.

There is a Red State cure, I mean besides the obvious best choice of voting Democratic, vote for solid candidates in the primary and come out to vote for them in the general, please, I don't know how many more of these disaster Red State minority wrecking machine presidents we can weather, the debt is piling up at an alarming rate, so are the bodies.

Kevin said...

Checks and balances exist. In our government there is only so much damage a president can do without support, like Bush had post 9/11.

If the Democrats and state governments allow Trump to enact the Enabling Act of 2020 to give him and his cabinet the power to legislate without Congress, I'll worry then. Otherwise he is the head of one branch of government held in check by two others. He couldn't go Hitler even if he wanted to.

Bush, on the other hand, was an international nightmare with a river of blood on his hands that will never see justice.

To put it into perspective, evil bloodthirsty tyrant Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in an evil and unprovoked attack. This vile action resulted in an estimated one thousand civilian deaths. Less than one percent of the blood on Bush's hands.

Trump is worse?

Kevin said...


I revile both parties. It is harder to cast a vote every cycle.

Starhopper said...


Trump as Napoleon? You're giving him way too much credit. Trump isn't one tenth the man Napoleon was.

One tenth? Heck, he isn't one percent. Not one tenth of one percent!

Starhopper said...

A better literary image of Trump is not Napoleon in The Great Divorce, but the King of Pointland in Flatland (one of my all-time favorite books).

"Behold yon miserable creature. That Point is a Being like ourselves, but confined to the non-dimensional Gulf. He is himself his own World, his own universe; of any other than himself he can form no conception; he knows not length, nor breadth, not height, for he has no experience of them; he has no cognizance even of the number two; nor has he a thought of plurality; for he himself is his One and All."

Starhopper said...

By the way, these words were penned in 1883. Quite prophetic, wouldn't you say?

Unknown said...

A list of the most Psychopathic Presidents.


bmiller said...

Oops. I am "Unknown" in this case.

bmiller said...

It's a good practice though.

bmiller said...

HaHa! Hal.

You may not want to click on my links, but I also know you can't help yourself ;-)

bmiller said...

I confess. I already clicked on it.

You're a dangerous risk-taker Hal. Must be the Marine in you.:-)

bmiller said...

But the real question is: Are you a psychopath?

bmiller said...

I took the test and was rated "Low". So I know it's a sham.

John Mitchel said...

David Wood became a Christian apologist, after he tried to kill his father.
He smashed his head in with a hammer numerous times.
He was diagnosed with sociopathy (anti-social personality disorder)
In prison he converted to Christianity and later got a PhD in Philosophy.

Thats his conversion story:

Very interesting video. Very well done.