Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Psychopathy & Machiavellianism.

People sometimes ask me if it is Possible for a Non-Psychopathic Adult Individual to Develop Psychopathy. I have chosen to Respond To this Question with an Introduction to Machiavellianism and how, if at all, this World View Corresponds with Psychopathy.

Let me start with the question as presented by a Reader:

Don't you think brain plasticity is still fairly high in adults? Short of a traumatic experience which severely damages the amygdala (causing lack of emotion), don't you think one can slowly develop psychopathy through a safer method of gradually conditioning?
If you don't have the genetic prerequisites for developing Psychopathy (this is determined before we are born) you will not become a Psychopath no matter what method you use to proactively try to stimulate or trigger the condition in yourself. You can adopt a certain world view, and to some extent behaviors, know to be prevalent among psychopaths. The world view I refer to is well known and even has a name, it is called Machiavellianism (ref. link above).

If you haven't already come across Machiavelli or what he represents, check out Machiavelli and Machiavellianism (Wikipedia links). You might also want to look up his most famous book 'The Prince' (link is to complete text in e-book format), which became the basis for the modern term 'Machiavellianism' - a book that shocked the public even in it's own time because of it's ruthless honesty and complete absence of aim to mask descriptions of reality in pleasing packaging as well as his open hearted references to the type of consequences that every man and woman must face when they refuse to acknowledge reality, along with it's clear exposure of the all too common hypocritical pretenses of morality and religiousness i.e. in all levels of society. 

As always, Niccolo Machiavelli, being the Messenger that he was destined to be, wasn't received well by his contemporaries even if he gave them a Key to gain Understanding that could've enabled them to create greater lives for themselves than otherwise possible. Alas, it is always easier to turn the blind eye and use the remaining one eye to indulge in religious practices that the practitioner rarely understands the meanings of - thereby becoming useless mumbo-jumbo of nonsense and a waste of time, or worse: A time consuming Cancer that eats away at your life in exchange for the promise of giving it to you if you only agree to not live it while you have it.

Machiavellianism represents the world view that all human activity is fundamentally selfish in nature and that ignoring the fact that power provides you with more freedom to pursue your interests and beliefs as well as do what you find pleasure in doing - including illegal activities; punishment for breaking the law only has reality for the powerless, the masses. Power provides you with better means and chances of survival, and not mere survival, but survival with freedom to live a satisfying life. 

The Machiavellian World View also see it as being an act of selfishness to allow oneself to indulge in illusions such as morality, letting mores dictate that you must be law abiding for the sake of doing what society (read: the seat of power) even if obeying this rule puts you and/or your family i.e. friends etc at risk. Yet the common choice is to be law abiding, and you're told that you will be rewarded for doing the Morally Right thing (a great and blatant lie, but oh, such a comforting lie to those who lack insight and braveness).

The reasoning is right in front of you: How can you justify putting good living or even survival of your family, your nearest and dearest, at risk all for the sake of following a Set of Morals? Don't forget that Morality, unlike Ethics, is the adherence to Right and Wrong as presented/dictated to you by an outside Authority, be it society's Authority, your family's Authority, religion, your school teacher, or your anybody's Authority who has a higher social status than yours.

Yet, are we not supposed to do everything in our Power for our Nearest and Dearest, our Family and Loved Ones?

Then how is it that we're also expected to completely disregard their well being by refraining from some deed that might save their lives or their livelihood if the deed is considered illegal by law, and mind you this is not out of concern for us possibly receiving punishment, it is because abstaining from committing an illegal act is the morally correct thing to do, simply because it is illegal, not necessarily because it hurts anybody (which it might not, or it may rightfully hurt someone who has abused the law themselves).

The Machiavellian Interpretation: To Abide by the Law, even at the cost of your own or your family's safety, because it is the Moralistic and therefore Good and Right thing to do, cannot be given any credence, for you commit to a faceless All-Knowing Law, formally known as The Good for 'all Society', 'all People', 'all of Us' - whoever 'all of Us' are if not 'We, the Authority of everything Common and Mediocre', because it is in our interest to keep society at a mediocre state. Too many individuals knowing too much and reasoning too well, along with having too much capacity for acting on their reasoning and knowledge, is not a good thing for a society that largely builds on the resources of a large population (in later decades too large, if you ask me). The truth is there is no 'us' or 'we', and the Powerful is a faceless number who's interest first and foremost is to make sure that the power system remains intact, or at least manageable during change, so that the faceless number in power can comfortably remain powerful and the faceless masses comfortably remain unaware of their own crucial part in it all.

Of course this is preferably done peacefully since peace is by far more cost efficient, more reliable and more manageable, than war or war-like conditions. And this is all by the very same decree that Machiavellians adhere to: Keep in power and maintain the power structure at all costs, even by means of sacrificing civilian lives when and where need be.

It is not good, but it is also not all bad. Most of all it merely is.

Do not misunderstand me, or rather don't misunderstand Machiavellianism: There is no discrimination, no denouncing and no being against or for "the system" or those in power. Things are this way because it is in the human nature to arrange things in this manner, Machiavellians simply acknowledge the facts as they see them and take responsibility for what they do with their knowledge as well as how they do it.

But where the subject of Psychopathic Machiavellians and Neurotypical and not so neurotypical Machiavellians is concerned there are bound to be some differences in how a life view such as this, with it's deeply practical and even cynical fundamental aspects, will affect us and our actions - as Psychopaths individually and as non-Psychopaths individually. There will be differences in each group, but I'm pretty certain that the questions that invariably arise along the way as we're faced with decisions and choices that we must make, these will cause much more speculation, and emotional difficulties and pain - probably even some psychological trauma, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - for the neurotypical person, and cause him/her much more difficulty when decisions and certain choices are to be made, whereas the psychopath most likely will be fairly unscathed throughout his/her life time since we don't respond emotionally to events, acts and decisions, the same way that other people do.

So yes, you can be a psychopath and typically have a machiavellian outlook on life, but more likely you can be an intelligent and emotionally neurotypical person who has a Machiavellian outlook on life. The former is more often the case unless you grow up in a family who are Machiavellians, or you may be exposed to a good school teacher who has a machiavellian world view at a time when you happen to be receptive to give it the necessary open minded positive attention. If you see what you've heard - or alternatively read yourself - confirmed in what goes on around you, the rest comes naturally.

The difference between a Psychopathic Machiavellian and a Neurotypical Machiavellian is mostly the same as in other instances: The psychopath is more likely to act in accordance with what he thinks and believes whereas a non-psychopath will be more hesitant because he has a natural in-build neuro-psychological emotional response system that needs to process what he is/did experience before he can decide what action to take. Processing takes some time, if only minutes it will still regularly lead to the moment having passed, and with it the opportunity to act. The Psychopath don't have the neurological wiring required to respond emotionally and can do not make decisions based on the (to us - the Psychopaths) Largely Irrelevant Emotions - at least as they're normally defined - but on other aspects with relevance to a differently structured motivation, and there is no looking back with any painful sense of regret when sometimes the consequences of a poorly thought through choice becomes reality.

While machiavellianism seems to be the prototypical outlook on life for a psychopath, it is also at least to some extent a trait of the time we live in. Dr. Robert D. Hare is right when he states that the company structure in modern business is not unlike the structure of the motivational behavior of a psychopath. This is so because in business it has been necessary to encourage the possibility of disregarding moral rules for as far as it can make the difference between getting a profitable deal home or losing it to someone who is more cynical and more willing to put aside 'decent human behavior' for the sake of profit and career. But this is material for another article, I just wanted to mention it here in order to make the connection visible to the Reader.


Anonymous said...

I want to turn the masses into Machiavellianism thinkers. Been doing this for a long time, usually get a lot of agreement out of them but stumble in getting them over their moralistic hurdle.

Perhaps I can study it now you have written this piece and come to a more effective way of diverging them of their self defeating moralistic views.


Illuminance said...

Show people that their "selfless" altruism is a lie, and just a form of cloaked self-interest.

"Oh, you did it because it was the nice thing to do, and you didn't get anything out of it? Did you feel good about doing it?"

Anonymous said...

Zhawq, you are correct that no one can will themselves to be a psychopath, however, there are forms of acquired psychopathy in the medical literature, mostly as a result of frontal lobe damage. It can happen instantly as a result of a traumatic brain injury or insidiously, as in the case of Frontal Temporal Lobe Dementia or frontal tumors. In addition, I think it is worth noting that monks who spend a lifetime learning how to achieve extreme states of deep meditation show similar emotional equanimity and brain wave patterns as psychopaths

Anonymous said...

^ not altruism, morals and societal rules and regulations that they have been conditioned to put before themselves.

I feel good about this but not satisfied/curious and challenged to get them further over that line.

Its like unplugging people from the matrix and freeing them.

Of course it is self interest, peoples full hearted submission to morals and society actively discriminates against people like and me(and themselves,though they are largely unaware of this), I fucking hate their consequences and power systems, I want to destroy them.

I see it as for their benefit and mine.

Nata said...

"Yet, are we not supposed to do everything in our Power for our Nearest and Dearest, our Family and Loved Ones?"
I speak for myself when saying this: No. Why? Keyword is -supposed (to)- If I am supposed to do anything/everything, it means I'm tied up/forced/pressed by love I feel and that I'm "obligated" to do whatever and from that point of view, love seems like a burden, pressure, seems like a weakness...It also means I don't have my own integrity and that love can make me bend my "spine" and turn me into something I am not... Which has nothing to do with love (or "Set of Morals", fear or authorities); love is what makes you free, what defines you (as person) and what makes you unique (from perspective of people who love you), therefore, it's complete opposite of what I've just described ^.

Anonymous said...

Basically a psychopath follows the Self-Interest Theory.

Greg said...

do you, or have you belonged to a band called Mayhem?

Anonymous said...

The guy in the picture looks just like a psycho friend I used to know