A Phil-for-an-ill Blog

December 3, 2009

When Does Psychopathy Flourish? (Musings on Psychopathy II)

“Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” R.D. Laing

The chaos star - symbol of chaos

What is a psychopath?

Etymology: Psychopath
psyche Look up psyche at Dictionary.com
1647, “animating spirit,” from L. psyche, from Gk. psykhe “the soul, mind, spirit, breath, life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body” (personified as Psykhe, the lover of Eros), akin to psykhein “to blow, cool,” from PIE base *bhes- “to blow” (cf. Skt. bhas-). The word had extensive sense development in Platonic philosophy and Jewish-infl. theological writing of St. Paul. In Eng., psychological sense is from 1910. etymonline.com
pathos Look up pathos at Dictionary.com
“quality that arouses pity or sorrow,” 1668, from Gk. pathos “suffering, feeling, emotion,” lit. “what befalls one,” related to paskhein “to suffer,” and penthos “grief, sorrow;” from PIE base *kwenth- “to suffer, endure” (cf. O.Ir. cessaim, Lith. kenciu “suffer”). etymonline.com
From Greek ψυχή psyche “soul” + πάθος pathos “suffering”. wiktionary.com


psychopath = psyche + pathos  = mind/soul + suffering = suffering mind = dis-eased mind = sick mind

Wikipedia states:

Psychopathy (pronounced /saɪˈkɒpəθi/[1][2]) is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Robert Hare, a researcher in the field describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators[3][4] who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence[5][6][7] to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”.[8] “What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”[9]

Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion;[10] some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments.[11] There is neither a cure nor any effective treatment for psychopathy; there are no medications or other techniques which can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy only become more adept at manipulating others.[12] The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.[10] It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths.[13][14] Wikipedia

Evolutionary Raison d’etre of the Psychopath

Laura Knight-Jadczyk wrote:

You see, evolutionarily speaking, psychopaths should not exist. Throughout history it can be seen that human beings have needed to co-operate and care about one another in order to survive and produce a new generation that will carry on the processes of society. Most human dynamics are based on people trying to work out their problems and come to resolutions agreeable to the greatest number or, at the very least, in the interactions between two people. The issue of trust is paramount. Someone who betrays your trust is someone you cannot live or work with. Therefore, psychopaths, who are untrustworthy should have long ago become extinct. But that isn’t the way things are. It appears, in fact, as if psychopathy has increased! laura-knight-jadczyk.blogspot.com

Our last hope - Hitler

I contend however that there are environmental circumstances in which the psychopath may have selective benefits that lead to increased survivability. Such circumstances would be defined by sufficient degrees of societal chaos, turmoil, danger, disaster etc…. In short, circumstances that feature sufficiently pronounced social instability or an overall psychologically unhealthy environment. It is under these challenging and pathological circumstances that the pathological individual, who has the “suitable” practical mental attitude to act swiftly and ruthlessly, stands out from the crowd. In the most positive qualification, he could be the hero type. Contrastingly, the more humanely inspired, but thus also the more hesitantly and considerately acting individual would likely be too overcome with fear to the point of being unable to respond at all. As such, compared to the psychopath, those less extreme individuals are likely to be outflanked in successfully dealing with challenging and harsh environments.

Once a psychopath has, or a group of collaborating psychopaths have, gained dominion over a group of people who are in need of help, then a sort of societal stability may set in if both parties are mutually supportive. In practical terms this means when the other group is submissive to the psychopathic leadership. As long as that hierarchical acknowledgment is in place the psychopaths at the top do not necessarily have to kill all the guys at the bottom if the latter serve the former. Indeed, the band of ruling psychopaths, euphemistically and perhaps typically touted as the heroic saviors of the tribe, automatically get the girls (including any possible harems) and they are thus offered an opportunity to pass on their psychopathic traits to their offspring. In addition,  the lack of conscience and stereotypical lack of respect for fellow human beings paves the way for the psychopath  to spread his traits also using blatantly unethical means (i.e. through sexual rape). And so psychopathy is given a chance to flourish, at least in those  unfortunate communities that have psychopaths positioned firmly at its proverbial rudder.

As such, the phenomenon of the proliferation of the psychopath can be reconciled with evolution theory after all. Although one has be willing to admit that the societal environment which birthed the psychopath was one where chaos and discord reigned. In a habitat where most of its constituents are in the debilitating grip of fear, the uncaring psychopath naturally emerges as victor. In fact, the psychopath likely prefers to thrive in a fear stricken ambiance as he will stand out among what he likely considers “weaklings.” If he manages to seize control of society he will then rule with a rod of iron over those needy weaklings, probably rationalizing to himself that they need a strong leader like himself (think of Stalin, whose name literally means “man of steel”).

Needless to say, a form of government based on brute force and terror tends to catalyze more fear and terror into the hearts and minds of its constituents. Psychopathy may be one form of mental sickness, but I propose that the debilitating inability resulting from fear and apathy as well as complacency in preventing the detrimental rise to power of a psychopathic leadership is yet another form of mental sickness. As such, when psychopathy is in control of society it is very well possible to produce a relatively stable form of society, albeit one that is of course, patently all-round pathological; one where enjoyment of relative freedom has been sacrificed on the altar of blind hero worship of the “Savior” State.

In short, it is the sick ruling the sick on the universal basis of fear and terror.

Since the media is joined at the hip with government, it is only to be expected that Hollywood also has no qualms to glorify the psychopath...

...portrayed as the strong man "hero" type, impervious to bullets and care for his "cannon fodder".

Generative Principle for the Emergence of the Psychopath

Therefore,  regarding the emergence and possible dominance of the psychopathic individual and in keep with R.D. Laing, I postulate that the following generative principle apply:

Just like people tend to get physically sick from exposure to a physically unhealthy environment,
people also tend to get mentally sick from exposure to a mentally unhealthy environment.

Pathological individuals thrive best in pathological environments; whereas orthological (i.e. sane) individuals thrive best in orthological rather than pathological environments, as they are ill-equipped to handle the ruthless and parasitical exploitation as forced on them by the psychopathic individual. In addition, pathological individuals do not fare well in predominantly sane environments, as, in turn, their double dealings are likely to be discovered by vigilant counterparts. Consequently they are likely to be singled out and forced into social isolation and/or jettisoned out of the orthological society.

Only the sick sustain a sick leadership.

Therefore, in the midst of wolves, the sheep need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).


  1. Musings on Psychopathy
  2. The Trick of the Psychopath’s Trade: Make Us Believe that Evil Comes from Others
  3. Tunguska, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction

Restoring order out of chaos; totalitarian order that is; the psychopath's specialty...

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