On Remorse

It is well known that psychopaths lack remorse for their antisocial actions.  However, I fail to see why remorse is necessary to the human condition.  Remorse is a feeling state.  As with all feeling states, it passes.  Therefore, many are assigning arbitrary weight to a transient emotion.  Those that place value on remorse suggest that it is necessary for the reformation of a person doing bad deeds.  However, there are plenty of other incentives for one not to revisit their antisocial ways.  Nonetheless, people live and die by their capacity to feel remorse – see sentencing criteria for cases potentially involving the death penalty.  A logical mind should be able to “reform” without emotions clouding their judgement.  A logical mind has no use for such a self-loathing state.

There are plenty of mechanisms that can lead to reformation of the antisocial and/or psychopath.  Most notably, the mindful individual should realize that the inconveniences of getting wrapped up in the legal system are simply not worth it.  They should also realize that having a revolving door of acquaintances is also detrimental to one’s quality of life.  I’m not going to pretend that most psychopaths, in particular, come to these realizations, but there are individuals that do.  It follows that we place too much weight on the emotional state of remorse when determining whether one can be rehabilitated.  The individual can react even without such a perverted state.

There are also artificial applications of the importance of remorse based on whom is feeling (or not feeling) the emotion.  The psychopath is singled out for being destructive and a lack of remorse is used by those in power to exacerbate any punishments given to the psychopath.  However, the neurotypical is suspect to bouts of a lack of remorse as well.  As long as the mind can justify one’s actions, remorse need not enter the picture.  Consider violence in the name of deities or in the name of passion.  Such crimes are often rationalized as justifiable and the individual at fault does not feel remorse as a result.  As long as one can rationalize their actions, remorse is a non-indicator of ability to be rehabilitated.  It is hypocritical for the neurotypical to single out the psychopath when each and every person on this earth has rationalized bad behavior in one form or another.

Remorse is a non-factor in determining the future actions of an individual.  Let the punishment fit the crime and no harsher.  Neurotypicals that focus on remorse are missing the point.  There are ways to rehabilitate an individual that does not feel remorse, and every person that breathes can rationalize bad behavior in such a way as to avoid such an inconvenient feeling state.  Feeling states pass.  Eventually remorse dulls and one accepts their past sins.  There is simply no reason to single out any one group for their lack of feelings when all are equally flawed.

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