The Psychopathic Personality
"What makes psychopaths different from all others is the remarkable ease with which they lie, the pervasiveness of their deception, and the callousness with which they carry it out."
-- Robert Hare, Without Conscience
"Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers. The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender."
– Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door
The belief that just about everyone is a "good" person deep down -- well-intentioned and well-meaning, sincere, honest, compassionate, kind -- is one that has been undermined by fairly recent scholarship, particularly in the field of behavioral psychology.
From the work of Cleckley, Hare, Lobaczewski et al., we know that a segment of any population is afflicted with an affective deficit, with a cluster of disturbing traits that include the absence of a conscience and the inability to feel empathy or experience remorse. This phenomenon is what clinical psychiatry means by the term psychopathy, and which others sometimes refer to as sociopathy. The passages below expand on this definition and fill in a profile of deviancy which is truly jarring.
I. Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door 
"Imagine -- if you can -- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.
"And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.
"Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.
"You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.
"In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.
"You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered.
"How will you live your life?
"What will you do with your huge and secret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other people (conscience)?
"The answer will depend largely on just what your desires happen to be, because people are not all the same. Even the profoundly unscrupulous are not all the same. Some people -- whether they have a conscience or not -- favor the ease of inertia, while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some human beings are brilliant and talented, some are dull-witted, and most, conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent people and non-violent ones, individuals who are motivated by blood lust and who have no such appetites…
"Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all.
"If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction…
"Crazy and frightening -- and real, in about 4 percent of the population…
"The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth.
"Yet surprisingly, many people know nothing about this disorder, or if they do, they think only in terms of violent psychopathy -- murderers, serial killers, mass murderers -- people who have conspicuously broken the law many times over, and who, if caught, will be imprisoned, maybe even put to death by our legal system.
"We are not commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger number of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are not blatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system provides little defense.
"Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between conceiving an ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to one's boss about a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not only there; it is chilling. Simple and profound, the link is the absence of the inner mechanism that beats up on us, emotionally speaking, when we make a choice we view as immoral, unethical, neglectful, or selfish.
"Most of us feel mildly guilty if we eat the last piece of cake in the kitchen, let alone what we would feel if we intentionally and methodically set about to hurt another person.
"Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers.
"The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender.
"What differentiates a sociopath who lives off the labors of others from one who occasionally robs convenience stores, or from one who is a contemporary robber baron -- or what makes the difference between an ordinary bully and a sociopathic murderer -- is nothing more than social status, drive, intellect, blood lust, or simple opportunity.
"What distinguishes all of these people from the rest of us is an utterly empty hole in the psyche, where there should be the most evolved of all humanizing functions."
II. Hervey Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity 
Defining the Psychopath:
“...we are dealing here not with a complete man at all but with something that suggests a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly. This smoothly operating psychic apparatus reproduces consistently not only specimens of good human reasoning but also appropriate simulations of normal human emotion in response to nearly all the varied stimuli of life. So perfect is this reproduction of a whole and normal man that no one who examines him in a clinical setting can point out in scientific or objective terms why, or how, he is not real. And yet we eventually come to know or feel we know that reality, in the sense of full, healthy experiencing of life, is not here."
“In contrast with all the various diversities of viewpoint and degrees of conviction found among ordinary people, the so-called psychopath seems to hold no real viewpoint at all and to be free of any sincere conviction in what might be called either good or evil.”
“The psychopath shows a remarkable disregard for truth and is to be trusted no more in his accounts of the past than in his promises for the future or his statement of present intentions. He gives the impression that he is incapable of ever attaining realistic comprehension of an attitude in other people which causes them to value truth and cherish truthfulness in themselves."
Lack of remorse and shame:
“The psychopath apparently cannot accept substantial blame for the various misfortunes which befall him and which he brings down upon others, usually he denies emphatically all responsibility and directly accuses others as responsible…
“Whether judged in the light of his conduct, of his attitude, or of material elicited in psychiatric examination, he shows almost no sense of shame. His career is always full of exploits, any one of which would wither even the more callous representatives of the ordinary man. Yet he does not, despite his able protestations, 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 or humanitarian matters. If Santayana is correct in saying that ‘perhaps the true dignity of man is his ability to despise himself,’ the psychopath is without a means to acquire true dignity."
They can’t see themselves as others see them:
"He [the psychopath] has absolutely no capacity to see himself as others see him. It is perhaps more accurate to say that he has no ability to know how others feel when they see him or to experience subjectively anything comparable about the situation…
“This is almost astonishing in view of the psychopath's perfect orientation, his ability and willingness to reason or to go through the forms of reasoning, and his perfect freedom from delusions and other signs of an ordinary psychosis. Usually, instead of facing facts that would ordinarily lead to insight, he projects, blaming his troubles on others with the flimsiest of pretext but with elaborate and subtle rationalization. Occasionally, however, he will perfunctorily admit himself to blame for everything and analyze his case from what seems to be almost a psychiatric viewpoint, but we can see that his conclusions have little actual significance for him. Some of these patients mentioned spoke fluently of the psychopathic personality, quoted the literature, and suggested this diagnosis for themselves.
“Soon this apparent insight was seen to be not merely imperfect but a consistent and thorough artifact. Perhaps it was less a voluntary deception than a simulation in which the simulator himself fails to realize his lack of emotional grasp or that he is simulating or what he is simulating. The patient seems to have little or no ability to feel the significance of his situation, to experience the real emotions of regret or shame or determination to improve, or to realize that this is lacking. His clever statements have been hardly more than verbal reflexes; even his facial expressions are without the underlying content they imply. This is not insight but an excellent mimicry of insight. No sincere intention can spring from his conclusions because no affective conviction is there to move him.”
1. This passage from Stout’s book is excerpted from Andrew Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology (Red Pill Press, 2007), pp. 10-12.
2. Cleckley’s work can be accessed at http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/sanity_1.PdF. The passages quoted can be found on pages 341, 343, 350-351, and 369-371.
(March 15, 2021)