by Theodore Dalrymple (May 2009)
Can someone who appears to have been born without a moral sense, or never to have developed one, properly be called ‘evil,’ or even ‘bad?’
For when we evaluate people and classify them morally, as inevitably we do, whatever those who claim to hate the sinner but love the sin may say, we assume that they are moral agents, able to behave differently from how they actually do behave. more>>>
The subject of your essay sounds disturbingly like my youngest son, who has Asperger's Syndrome: the coldness towards others - at least, the lack of empathy - and inability to form friendships; high intelligence combined with contempt for those less endowed; pedantic style of writing (and, presumably, speech - one of the major indicators of Asperger's); and perduring obsessions. (Andrew, luckily, is obsessed with Doctor Who and stand-up comedians, neither of which, with any luck, should lead to murder.) None of this excuses a murderer, but may help to explain him.
A study of psychopaths reveals time and time again that despite completely normal and in many cases very caring and compassionate family support they develop harmfull, hurtfull and cruel traits. Inexplicable as it may be, it seems that in many cases they are born and not made evil.
With regard to opening line which states: "...whatever those who claim to hate the sinner but love the sin may say..." Sorry to be so dense, but is it not supposed to be the other way round? As: "those who claim to hate the sin but love the sinner"?
There is actually a biographical film about the life of Graham Young which I would recommend (I forget what it's called unfortunately). I believe it was reconsructed from his sister's diary.
The peculiar thing about life is that many people have great lives and turn out to be mean while others, who have awful lives, turn out to be lovely.
I really disagree with the vast majority of psychiatrists whom I've asked about this who, for one reason or another, believe that evil people are made rather than born.
I work with criminal offenders and the one poisoner I have worked with is the most unrepentant hypocrite person I have worked with so far, bar one other person who was not a murderer. And this is after 20 years of prison. Yet, we have to let that person out, that's the way it works. Very well mannered, well combed, if this person goes out on the street, others will see only a regular, vulnerable aged individual and yet, the evil is there to be seen and heard by whoever explores this person's thinking and past actions.
Another brilliant article by Dr Dalyrymple. justsomedude's comment is incomprehensible to me. The article seemed to be the very opposite of his description.
At some point early in human development, we each get the spark of life. We are alive. It's as if our bodes have captured some passing energy which now drives our soul.
What if that energy was bad? The universe seems to be full of opposing forces. Why shouldn't those forces be naturally represented in people as good and evil?
(it would explain the first commenter above)
As usual, a brilliant and wonderful essay by Mr. Dalrymple. "Just some dude", if you have nothing useful to say, why comment at all?
just some dude
Not much in that article is based on well-reasoned, competent thought. The author's musings sound curiously like those of a budding madman.