An Intelligent Calculus – Psychopathic Reasoning in the Absence of Conscience

I’ve written several times on the nature of conscience and its absence in the psychopathic mind.  While not a diagnostic criterion for confirming psychopathy, a lack of conscience is common in those whom are psychopathic.  Whereas the neurotypical will feel some visceral and gut feeling regarding an ethical dilemma, the psychopath tends not to.  This is certainly advantageous for the psychopath as she need not stand still while others are paralyzed by the command to satisfy their conscience.  However, a lack of conscience should not imply automatic and consistent antisocial behavior.  The reason for this is simple: the “good” choice need not be without reward.

The fallacy that many neurotypicals employ is that a lack of conscience implies immediate antisocial behavior whenever a psychopath is confronted with the choice between prosocial and antisocial behavior.  This implies that the antisocial choice is always more rewarding.  This is fallacious reasoning.  Society, while subject to antisocial whims of their own on both a global and individual level, tends to reward prosocial options.  At the very least, it tends to punish antisocial activities.  Therefore, it is in the psychopath’s best interest to choose the prosocial option when available, and many successful psychopaths realize this.  A lack of conscience merely implies that a different calculus is involved when choosing between a prosocial and antisocial action, it does not imply that no calculus is involved.

With society putting their collective finger on the scales, tipping the prosocial side further down than the antisocial side, the reward must be extraordinary for the successful psychopath to take the antisocial route.  The thoughts that go into choosing which action to take are certainly more well-defined than those of the neurotypical.  Whereas the neurotypical may choose automatically (so they claim) the prosocial option out of fear of those gut feelings associated with an antisocial choice, the successful psychopath will think carefully and weigh the pros and cons of the situational response.

A lack of conscience cannot imply automatic bad behavior from those without.  It is fallacious to believe so and precludes the possibility of an intelligent calculus used by the successful psychopath.  There may be no moral stake or sick stomach involved, but the psychopath can often reach the same conclusions that the neurotypical does – just with different reasoning and different values placed on the options at hand.

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