The definitive tract on sociopathy

Wednesday, 08 January, Year 6 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

First, some objective definitions :

Muggles are normal people in magic worlds. It's not that they are anything less than your average guy on the street. It's just that the world they live in is so much more than the world in which your average guy walks down the street.

Equalitarianism is the mistaken belief that the world is flat, and consequently hierarchy among people wrongful and evil.

And now, an in-universe, and therefore fictitious definitioni :

Sociopaths are essentially the human version of Always Chaotic Evil in media. Since we consider morality to be good, they are naturally depicted as amoral and selfish.

While it is somewhat Truth in Television, sociopaths are still human, and it's not unnatural that sociopaths have a sense of right and wrong, even though it is completely different from what other people consider that to be. Many diagnosed sociopaths are known to have moral codes, either unique to them or already established. Naturally, since these types of morality focus more on abstract concepts rather than the people themselves, expect some rather nasty extremism.

By definition, a sociopath is largely or totally incapable of guilt, compassion, empathy, or remorse — thus, whenever they subscribe to a moral code, said code will either be reinterpreted or be amoral from the outset. They might feel "bad" about doing something they think is wrong, or that goes against their code, but they won't feel guilty and will shrug it off as just one of those things, or justify what they did to themselves as being Necessarily Evil, no matter how much Insane Troll Logic they have to employ to reach that conclusion. They can also like people without actually caring for them all that much.

See also Principles Zealot, when a villain is completely obsessed with his/her moral code; many moral sociopaths are these as well, as they care more about their moral code than people themselves. However, moral sociopaths need not to be always overwhelmed by extremism; some can be more Noble Demon types, which while lacking empathy, still have a moral code to restrict them in some ways. Also compare/contrast Black and White Insanity and Sociopathic Hero.

This is not to be confused with Übermensch.ii Moral sociopaths can have their own unique moral codes, but they are just as likely to adhere to already established things like Christianity and Communism.

So now, let us endeavour to translate the literary device of sociopathy as found in works of fiction (chiefly people's own head, mind you) into the intellectual structure of objective reality.

The first step would be to look for awkward structures that are repeated, because that's one of the best indicators of nonsense the author holds dear to his heart. We don't have to look too far : "focus more on abstract concepts rather than the people themselves", " more about their moral code than people themselves". What'd this be all about ?

Well, consider some schmuck borrows a hundred bucks from you. Now, the abstract concepts involved in lending are that whoever borrows something also returns it. Furthermore, the moral code section that deals with lending strongly implies whoever borrows something also returns it. And for that matter, the borrower himself makes it quite clear that as far as he's concerned, he fully intends to and will in fact repay.

Fast forward the time wheel a little. What was borrowed is now to be returned. Obviously we could have the case of the magical alien dragon being of pure energy that borrowed with a clear purpose, on the basis of a plan, has set the liabilities aside in their own accounting (which they actually do, wonder of wonders!) and is now perfectly ready to repay. Nevertheless, we are much more likely to deal with... you know, "people themselves".

Now "people themselves", being muggles rather than the sort of magical alien dragon beings of pure energy that we've mentioned above, definitely aren't borrowing on the criteria that they can put the funds to some useful use - they borrow because "they need to". What is this need ? Why, the papering over of some failure. Does Jane down the street afford a new couch, whereas Sharon does not ? Why, clearly Sharon needs to borrow some money to compensate for this failure of hers.

Furthermore "people themselves", being muggles rather than the sort of magical alien dragon beings of pure energy that we've mentioned above, definitely aren't borrowing on the basis of a plan. Because plans are for suckers, and they take thinking, and what's worse... what's way, way worse than anything that could ever be (and therefore never is, through the workings of the magic in the muggle's mind) : plans can not be made in such a way as to eschew the reality of one's failure.

That's why planning takes so very much effort for muggles : it requires a complex, neverending and on the face improbable to be successful dance of avoiding the reality of just how scummy the muggle actually is. Where magical alien dragon beings of pure energy can just, you know, make a plan, takes half a minute, the muggle has to expend days. Weeks. The muggle would need magic in order to make 2 and 2 add together to the fifteen he needs it to add together, and so naturally he posits the alien dragons are magical : clearly it works just for them! Heck, for all we know maybe they manage to add two and two and get twennyeight! So unfair, seriously!

Well... here we are then. The muggle owes and can't repay. What do you do ? Because if you insist he has to do absolutely anything it takes, then clearly you care more about "mere" money than "people themselves" and therefore in the magical world the muggle inhabits you are a... wait for it... yes, you've guessed it. You're a sociopath! Because anything is a better alternative than the muggle being... you know, scum. This meme is so far advanced in the muggle brain that merely the intimation that bum debtors are scum is immediately translated in terms of "you're a sociopath!!". Or at least was, before bum debtors took the entire Country of Muggles by storm and it nearly collapsed as a result.

Obviously had he taken a job he'd have been able to repay. But, as far as the muggle himself is concerned, he's a creative writer of great talent, and consequently can't work as a stripper. It's a class issue. So therefore if the only jobs available are for stripping, and he's a creative writer of great talent (how ? magically, don't ask) he may be excused from not taking that job, even if by the act of borrowing he has in fact afore-promised to do anything it takes. Thinking otherwise would be, you've guessed it, putting morals and abstract concepts above people themselves, specifically their stupidity, laziness and tendency to lie, neither of which is all that abstract. These are the important, core values of your run of the mill muggle : being stupid ; being lazy ; being dishonest. If - God forbid! - you hold other values, you're clearly an alien dragon of pure magic energy and fuck you! Stop throwing the curve! Viva la revolucion socialista, viva el Che, hasta la victoria siempre!

What's that victory look like ? Why, you need but look at California, it'll become quite obvious. Has this state purchased goods from various businesses, which it then tried to repay with unfunded IOUs, which in turn it would not accept in lieu of tax receipts ? So it has. And if those business owners weren't such sociopaths, they'd have taken the IOUs, because "people themselves", the lazy, the stupid, the dishonest, are so very much more important than morals and abstract concepts such as don't lie, keep to your promises, do something useful with yourself, shut up as nobody wants to hear your misshod and misshapen "works of fiction" casting you as the emperor of some boring imaginary yet contradictory world where it's okay to be stupid, lazy and deceitfuliii and so on.

Getting back to the definition, some awkward spots remain. For instance, how would

They can also like people without actually caring for them all that much.


They might feel “bad” about doing something they think is wrong, or that goes against their code, but they won’t feel guilty

work out ? What's this space between "felling bad" and "feeling guilty" ? Does it mirror at all the proposed space between "like" and "love" ? Because it's almost as if the implicit definition we're invited to consider is that there's a muggle-approved liking called love and then there's everything else. For instance, if you take a woman, give her food, children and space, this may be liking her but not caring all that much. If you take the same woman and give her... what, exactly ? diamond rings, bizarre phone calls and your cat, but no space and no children you therefore love her (even if you don't like her all that much) ? How is this different from the age old "the Japs might have two legs and two arms just like us, but anything they do with those is pure evil, whereas everything we do with ours is pure goodness". At least all that public expenditure during the war years is put to some use, it now backs the War Of The Muggles, waged on reality.

It goes further,

but they won't feel guilty and will shrug it off as just one of those things, or justify what they did to themselves as being Necessarily Evil, no matter how much Insane Troll Logic they have to employ to reach that conclusion.

Does this sound familiar at all ? It'd seem to me California is not feeling guilty, and is shrugging it off as "just one of those things", and most definitely justifying theft as "necessarily evil". And if you don't give a shit about the first state of the muggles, consider how their federation works as a whole. Did they steal some guy's stuff ? Sure. Lie about it ? Sure. Guilty about it ? Perhaps, in the powerless, worthless and unimportant way of a dissenting opinion on a supreme court judgement for which the wronged had to pay through his teeth. Insane Troll Logic ? Read the proceeds, you'll be impressed, no sociopath to date has managed to match the complexity of idiocy your average muggle can expend in "justifying" their antisocial behaviour. (This is true incidentally : "sociopaths" bore of pointless tasks about as fast as muggles bore of useful ones.)

So now... perhaps it's time to drop the mask. There are no "magical alien dragons". Those are people. Those are the people.

There are also plenty of muggles, but these aren't people. They're subhuman life forms, much like say a cow, or a goat. Surely we could like a cow, in the manner we could like any other thing.iv We could not love it, and that for the obvious reason : you can't love a void. Which is what the muggle is, with all its numerous lacks and absences, a void. Might as well be non-existent, in the grand scheme of things. And yes, much like killing a cow is slaughter but is not murder, killing the muggle may be carnage but it certainly bears no moral impediment. You'll have, of course, to make damned sure they're all muggles, for else you're in quite the deep shitv, as there's no excuse available for the butcher that he's "mostly" killed cows, sheeps, and goats.

This is what sociopathy is : what the scum of the earth currently calls its betters. It may unfortunately also include a vanishingly thin sliver of actually insane individuals, but for better and for worse you can rely on the notion that whoever calls you a sociopath is paying you the best compliment his limited intellectual abilities allow him to. You're, as far as he can tell, a magical alien dragon of pure energy.

Enjoy, I guess.

  1. I've picked this one because it is the most intelligent, well articulated one available in any work of fiction. To be sure the situation is quite hopelessly sordid, with a vast majority of attempts ending up visibly self-contradictory in the rare cases they're not outright nonsensical. []
  2. For the needs of the in-universe (and therefore fictitious) lore, the Ubermensch is defined as one who's created his own moral code, as opposed to having accepted a moral code given by social immersion. []
  3. Kristen Wiig is the champion of this, incidentally. Pretty much any role of hers depicts a stupid, lazy and mostly deceitful woman (obviously aspiring creative writer), then she plays around a little with the deceitful part, that's her whole shtick. []
  4. Incidentally, the idea that killing animals, like pets, is "just like killing people" works fine if you understand a muggle is speaking, and he means muggles when he says people. It is in fact exactly the same : the only reason it may matter you've killed either pet or muggle is by proxy, because some actual human being (say their mother, or daughter) may care, especially if her education carefully avoided to at any juncture mention how muggles aren't, in point of fact, people. By this token, giving a good beating to an empty Santa Claus costume will possibly piss off some kids, especially if they come from the sort of household that makes a point out of preaching ignorance. []
  5. Even the biblical god has fallen over this point, on that episode with "if there is even one single man among the muggles I will refrain" part. There were, obviously, some men among them. []
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28 Responses

  1. But aren't most muggles potential people? Sorta like killing caterpillers before they turn into butterflies.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 8 January 2014

    Well, if we're doing this, aren't they all potential butterflies ? Or I dunno, cars ? Seems hardly enough reason to put them in the garage just because they may be potential cars.

  3. yeah but it makes drawing the lines a lot harder.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 8 January 2014

    The only good solution to the lines problem to date seems to be, draw them on the ground, let the muggle actively gut themselves rather than try to draw them in the air and actively gut passive muggles.

  5. You've never met an actual sociopath, have you? I understand your essay, and actually like it, because it explains the disconnect between the popular use of the term "sociopath", and the correct use of it. The popular use is that which muggles use to vent their frustration about their emotional needs being thwarted to the exclusion of anything else, like generally accepted (but ever so hypocritically ignored) principles that society says are its foundation. For muggles, their emotional needs are paramount and sacrosanct. Most people are muggles because they are narcissistic egoists with rotten parents and they have yet to grow up.

    But real life sociopaths are truly dangerous people who ruin others' lives for the mere fun of it sometimes - I know this very well. They're social economists, basically - anything in pursuit of their goals, in the name of self interest, is acceptable because it's really all a economic issue for them (you have what they want). So those principles that emotionally healthy people think are at least somewhat useful and good ideas, are nothing but hurdles to be ignored. Real sociopaths stand outside of society, expending all their effort on figuring out to exploit it and other people. This is a far cry from someone complaining about a debt that they don't want to pay.

    It's unfortunate that the term 'sociopath' seems to be getting watered down, due to this overuse and blurring of the definition, much in the same way "hacker" got corrupted by society at large. Maybe it is a matter of responsibility - real sociopaths refuse to accept responsibility (or even understand the logic) for their actions. So if someone calls you a sociopath for you insisting they take responsibility for their actions, then they are the -actual- sociopath (or sociopathic) Real sociopaths also manipulate and lie to people... and there are far more of them than I think you realize.

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 21 January 2014

    Well yeah.

  7. Sociopaths exist, and, like normal people they fall within an intelligence range from mouthbreather to genius, a distribution that can be plotted on a nice little bell curve.
    If you are on the far right of the bell curve, the farther to the left of you you observe, the more transparent the persons are to you. It should actually be easy to pick out the REAL sociopaths around the mediocre middle for you with some training (which is valuable). But now turn this around.
    To those in the middle and lower, those at the right end of the bell curve might as well be sociopaths, they are not equipped to find out as they are significantly worse at pattern recognition and problem solving, and no one is playing with ALL his cards revealed except the totally mentally retarded.
    Add to this that the capacity to control or subdue innate empathy is generally higher the more intelligence increases, and we see that the majority of humans will never really know whether their masters are "evil" or just know better.

  8. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 12 February 2016

    Seems credible.

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