In The Criminal Psychopath, Jurimetrics. 2011 Summer; 51: 355–397, Kiehl and Hoffman provide a thorough summary of the history, diagnosis, and treatment of the psychopath, particularly with a view to amount of crime committed by this relatively small proportion of the population.
It raises the interesting issue of the degree to which the condition is the result of a brain disorder and the interaction with this brain in its environment. There is apparently some evidence that the condition has a genetic component, and perhaps it is a peculiarly vulnerable brain in connection with the “right” environment which leads to the exhibition of utter moral inability. Plainly performing standard experiments by tormenting and mistreating children in rigorously similar manners to see whether the condition can be induced regularly would be evil. Therefore, one needs to consider proxies, such as the condition shows some responsiveness to treatment if the treatment early enough in life.
That there is correspondence between the condition and certain brain function is interesting: But note that the information cited shows the functioning of the brain: their brains function differently. When faced with moral situations the parts of their brain which were involved differed from “you and me.” But what does that exactly prove? The argument that the brain is causing this condition actually contains a hidden premise: that all thought must begin from the brain, not pass through the brain.
For a moment take a different body part: the psychopath and the mother with her child both use their hands, but the use is strikingly different. No one believes that the mother hand causes her sweet caress.
Now a mother with broken hands could not caress in the same manner. The status of her hand both limits and permits certain behavior, but it does not cause her behavior.
But when it comes to the brain, it is easy to believe that the brain is causative. This is because the functioning of rest of the body relies heavily upon the functioning of the brain. In particular, the use of the brain in thought could imply that the brain is directing the thought.
But need that be so? If one adds as an element of the human being a mind, it is no difficulty to concluded that the minds of two different men would use their brains in a different manner: just as the psychopath murders and the doctor heals with the hand.
If we posit that information flows from the body toward the mind and the mind toward the body, effects can move in both directions. (The precise nature of mind and body is not the issue. Although at present I am very intrigued by Dembski’s Being as Communion (information is the ultimate base, not matter) and Thomas’ hylomorphism which seems to resolve Descartes’ hard cleavage interaction problem.) Thus certain types of brains would have effects without being the univocal cause.
Another element in the article which intrigued me was “His very disconnectedness is his mask. We cannot see him because we assume all humans have the connections that bind us, and because the psychopath’s very lack of those connections allows him to mimic them.” The psychopath, to use the Ancient Greek term, is a-storge: he lacks human connections. The fact of storge among other humans creates the framework which the psychopath exploits: “One explanation is that being exposed to the frailties of normal people in group therapeutic settings gives psychopaths a stock of information that makes them better at manipulating those normal people. As one psychopath put it, ‘These programs are like a finishing school. They teach you how to put the squeeze on people.'”
They bear a resemblance to Nietzsche’s Nobility who know themselves better than all others and are willing to command and exploit. They also exhibit the final end of depravity in Romans 1.
What should think of them. The authors were hopeful there were ways to get the psychopaths to slow down a bit on their crime spree of life. But there really wasn’t any element of hope.
“As one psychotherapist wrote, his psychopaths in treatment ‘have no desire to change, … have no concept of the future, resent all authorities (including therapists), view the patient role as … being in a position of inferiority, and deem therapy a joke and therapists as objects to be conned, threatened, seduced, or used.'”
That reference to the “future” stuck out. It is not merely that they have no concept of future punishment, they have no mechanism for hope. Perhaps they can move by hungers, I want this-then-that, but would be based upon a present hunger. I might plan to fulfill my hunger, but not be different.
Authorities obviously are merely impediments to be beaten or seduced. That is easy enough. But without the future, without hope. That again is a state described in Paul as the depth of lostness, “having no hope without God in the world.”
Now we come to this character: no authority, no hope, no future. Such a man is ultimately depraved.
It is the cognitive capacity of a man without love: because love is built around the future. Love does not exult in oneself, but puts another first. Love becomes a sort of authority for the other’s good becomes paramount.