Conscience? Heh... it's a tricky thing, really. Because as a child, I noticed my teachers and parents trying to ingrain into me stuff like "you must do this and that", "you must think and say this and that" so you can be a "good child/citizen of society", etc. Sure I went along because it was easier to live in a society that encouraged "a strict version of conformity" but often, I felt really perplexed because many of the things people did, truly made no sense. And so, there were times when I broke the rules. However, that didn't stop me from being "an absolute adherant(aka fanatic) of certain mindsets".
How does obeying all the rules to the T actually make you a "good citizen", if one has a limited self-awareness and is unable to understand that moral greys exist in many situations? For example: people have different motivations and that sometimes, what one person sees as "good" can be a "poison" to another or certain others, and vice versa. Also, unquestionably obeying the rules can actually inflict harm on yourself and others. Doesn't behaviour like absolute obedience often lead to massacres, tragedies or widespread damage that often negatively affects perceptions and treatment of a certain class, sub-culture, organization, etc.?
I do not claim to have a gold standard of conscience but I do have some conscience(only applicable if someone intends to commit a lot of harm to others or which will greatly inconvenience himself and others). Although, that doesn't mean I've never cheated, lied, committed theft(physical theft is a lot harder, digital is a lot easier), engaged in a bit of criminal behaviour(who doesn't?) and so on.
When my conscience isn't present, my fear will simply kick in and oh, guilt. I've attempted to detach myself from these emotions because simply, just because my fear says that "You should be frightened of doing this", doesn't mean it's a rational thing. Although I'll admit that it has saved me at times from doing utterly stupid things, at times, it comes far too late. As in: after I almost lost my life a couple of times, then my fear kicked in.
And as a child, I'd attempted to learn how to kill off my conscience and empathy because quite simply, I didn't see why I needed them and thought them useless. That didn't work out very well though and contributed further to my depression and other problems like losing my sense of self. After all, when one keeps switching between a "sociopathic-like mode" and a "normal, empathy-like mode" while retaining a level of awareness, it will utterly screw you up. Because if you're at least aware of both these 2 selves, it will mean quite simply: a total rejection of your "other self". So, I dropped this useless kind of thinking and behaviour because actually, I'm a highly empathic individual who cares for people a lot.
There is a Dr. Robert article that addresses this question pretty well. I suggest checking it out:
I Believe That I Am a Psychopath. Can You Explain To Me Why Other People Feel the Guilt and Sorrow Which I Never Feel?
I'm just rambling some. :-)
I think it is interesting that I can lack something yet comprehend it's functionings so very well. A conscience actually impairs the judgement of those who have it. They are restrained by their own chosen convictions. Born with limits.
Yet you would all think it important that we have this handicap? Why? Conscience creates fear. Fear turns normal people into dangerously frightened animals. Functioning off a.. fear instinct?
I've always had a facination with the conscience mind... after it has been twisted. Perhaps if some people lost their conscience.. their minds would heal from mental damage? Besides desensitizing.. how can you remove the conscience from a persons mind? It would be interesting to see the seperation and change in perception they would have.
I've actually heard of people incurring physical trauma to the brain and turning violent after but whether they suffered any loss of conscience, hmmm... only an MRI would tell.
Remember me Daniel from the other website?
Anyway, interesting question. Good to see you’re still thinking through things like this. Curiously, I don’t know if I have much of a conscience too, if by conscience we mean some kind of innate system that tells us what is right and what is wrong morally. Arbitrary rules don’t sit well with me either. I can tell you however that for me, it is more about how I feel when I say and do things that lead to pain for others. It doesn’t feel right to me. You ask about the body… I feel it in my body, the “wrongness” of hurting others. When I am helpful, loving, compassionate and kind I feel that as well. I feel it as a kind of warmth, a lightness, and as emotional uplift. I don’t interpret that as right or wrong though, if by that you mean objective morality. I think that like you, I don’t know if it is that black and white. For me it is more about the connection between living beings. If I act as if there is no connection, the resulting feeling is a sense of wrongness or incorrectness. If I act in ways that honor the connectedness, I experience that as rightness or correctness. By correct and incorrect, I am referring to the way things are, as in, it would be “wrong” to jump off of a roof without any means of flying and expect to fly. I’m talking about what I see as the reality of it. I’m sure I have many more beliefs that you would completely reject, but I think the idea that we are all connected should not be too controversial or “woo-woo” of an idea. We share 99% of our DNA! That fact alone should indicate to you that what we have in common far outweighs what makes us different.
And one more unrelated thing. I noticed from our previous encounter that your worldview all depends on whether each one of us is isolated, totally and completely atomized and apart from everything and everyone around us. Your worldview depends upon the walls of self being made of titanium. If that assumption is incorrect, if we are in fact connected and in this thing together, and I have every reason to believe that we are, then all of the other assumptions that follow in your worldview must also be suspect. So in other words, if you Daniel are unable or incapable of feeling a sense of rightness/lightness/happiness/joy when you act upon the belief that you are connected to others, then you truly are in some way disabled. Please don’t take that in a derogatory way because that is not where I am coming from. I do think that the Doctor is right. It is easy for you to dismiss what you do not experience as something fantastical and a little ridiculous instead of acknowledging the full reality of it.
Still, like I said, no insult meant. Great conversation you got started here Daniel! Thanks for the intellectual stimulation and thank you Doctor Robert for hosting it and getting the ball rolling!
Yes, crazydice, I agree with this. Daniel seems to lie to himself a lot, or at least he imagines things about himself which don't seem to stand up to scrutiny. When the doc tried to open a door to that possibility, Daniel shut it quickly in a classic gesture of defense mechanism. He told the doc not to try to defeat him in a battle of wits, saying that it would never happen. Well, the doc seems pretty smart to me, but I never thought he was trying to lord it over Daniel anyway. I thing the battle was all in Daniels mind. Of course we all have and need our defenses, and pointing this out is nothing against Daniel in particular, but his obvious intelligence seems at times more a handicap than a strength.
Here's a good example. In another thread called : Empathy and what it means to be "human" Daniel said
"Wherever my travels have taken me, I have always come back to the realization that although I am biologically a member of the human race, psychologically I am an alien. There is no home for someone like me, no "true" role. I am incapable of believing in or emotionally investing in any of it."
But this is obviously wrong on the face of it. Daniel is a member of the human race not just biologically but psychologically as well. His form of alienated feelings are not all that unusual. That was the doc's point in trying to un-demonize psychopathy so that it could be understood as what the doc calls a normal human personality variant. But Daniel does not really seem to want to be normal, because that might mean this his lack of compassion and emotional warmth really is a deficiency and not a strength as he wants to make it.
No matter where it comes from, whatever combination of DNA and childhood experiences, a conscience is a pretty nice thing to have, and trying to say as some do on this forum that lacking a conscience is a kind of freedom to me seems like trying to make lemonade out of lemons.
Anyway, crazydice, I agree with you about Ecce Homo's, comment about human connectedness. Keep up the good work, Ecce Homo. I hope the doc will comment at some point on this thread, and would like to hear from Daniel too.
Hmmm I'd like to point out something: like many other traits, whether compassion and emotional warmth are seen as strengths or weaknesses, depends on the society and culture, and era you belong to. In certain parts of Asia, the men are emotionally detached to the point of being utterly cold. These men likely have no compassion, no empathy and it is seen as a strength. To show emotions is seen as a sign of weakness like crying when disowning their children or feeling bad for beating some sense into their wife. (This manner of behaviour was probably also true for certain classes and types of females.)
Of course, in the modern 21st century Western society, this behaviour is probably seen as an aberration and thus, a weakness, because humans are supposed to be expressive, kind, caring, nurturing and stuff. I say "modern" since I recall reading in various sources that during Victorian-era and prior, the way people treated one another was really different. It was perfectly legal to execute children for stealing bread, to beat your wife and so on, depending on the "era" you were in. Humans just don't change so quickly. After all, we are still a highly vicious and violent race and no matter how much we convince ourselves that "we're nice and civilized" using theology, philosophy and so on, the memories of violence still remain within us on a certain level of our subconsciousness.
Apparently it is still OK in many minds to beat your wife.
And yes, I agree that to a certain extent a conscience is formed by social construction--but not entirely. There is much evidence (for example see the work of Steven Pinker) that certain human emotions are universal across time and culture. Compassion certainly is one of these--the Buddha taught it 2500 years ago. How that compassion is expressed may look different in different cultures or different eras. For example, if there is an Asian male preference for keeping a stiff upper lip as in Victorian England, that does not mean that those men lack compassion. You would have to look into their minds to know that.
I don’t really know how much humans have or have not changed over the millennia. I can say that I believe, as Doug intimates, that love and compassion have existed as enduring human traits right alongside hatred and violence. That seems to be how it is for us, for now. And as to what we are in our essence, a "vicious race" as you put it, well objectively speaking that remains to be seen, doesn't it? I have a different view of humanity based on my own explorations and insights. Humans can behave violently, obviously. They can also behave kindly, which to my mind is equally obvious. However, beyond the duality of yin and yang, black and white, good and evil, love and hate, compassion and violence, male and female and so on, there is a perfect order and infinite intelligence that manifests as all that we see and experience. This view allows me to see humanity in a much kinder light. But I am not arguing that you should believe me or take on my point of view. I'm just sharing what works well for me in helping me to lead a life that I can love.
By the way, thank you crazy dice and Doug from Vermont for your very kind words and your insightful comments. It's great to see that we're all trying to do the best we can, trying to figure this thing called life out so that we can love ourselves and others well!