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Friday, September 29, 2006

A Dark Scenario

One defining characteristic of a psychopath is that he/she cannot tell right from wrong. Most people, for example, have increased brain activity when they hear alarming words such as "rape" or "homicide." Psychopaths, however, do not show this change in brain response; "rape" would produce the same response as "tree" or "chair." There are many factors involved in diagnosing psychopathy, but this lack of conscience is central.

If a psychopath goes on a killing spree and murders a family, can this person be considered evil? How do you define "evil"?

33 Comments:

Blogger Sarah P said...

Yes i think that this person NEEDS to be considered evil. Even though he may have no knowledge that he is doing anything wrong....but that still doesnt make it right. He has to learn right from wrong, and unfortunatly they had to learn the hard way, but that doesnt make it ok. He still murdered an entire innocent family, and he should not be able to get away from that. He should be considered evil, because i dont think that murder can be forgiven unless it is self defense.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Jennifer W said...

If a psychopath goes on a killing spree and murders a family, this person is considered evil because they can prevent this and get help. If you're a psychopath, someone should be able to tell certain characteristics about you and try to get you help. The person should go see a psychiatrist and get help. This person is evil because it is preventable. Evil, in my opinion is someone who intentionally harms someone physically or emotionally.
On the other hand though, if this person shows no signs of not being normal, then i suppose there is nothing you can do. It could go both ways.

9:16 AM  
Blogger Milt G said...

I do not think that person is necessarily evil. They cannot control it because they do not know any better. How can someone be considered evil if they do not know that what they are doing is wrong? If someone goes on a killing spree and they are in pure glee about it and they are happy about it because they enjoy killing people then i think that woudl qualify as evil. But a psychopath does not know not to do that. So for them it's not like they feel happy about killing the people it's just something that they do because they are not aware that it is wrong

9:17 AM  
Blogger Monique R said...

I think this question can be answered in different ways. If the defintion of "evil" is relative and creates a different response in a psychopath, then what they are doing may not be "evil" to them. Can they be blamed for doing something they don't know is wrong? I think so, because obviously society is pretty much unanimous in the idea that murder is evil, and unless this psychopath is completly shut off from society and has never interacted with another person, they wouldn't know not to do this. If the majority of the population knows right from wrong, then the psychopath can be blamed.

Can they be considered evil? I don't know, but this brings us back to the question of whether a person is completely good or evil. I can't judge a person as completely good or evil, just a mixture of both. A psychopath would be evil in a larger percentage than a "normal" person.

9:17 AM  
Blogger ryan f said...

Although it would be very hard to actually consider someone with psychopathically generated problems, I think that it needs to be done. If psychopaths can get away with doing such violent crimes without being considered an evil person, then what will the next defense be? Will other who commit crimes blame it on their psychological state? It is hard to actually condemn someone with such issues but without a sense of structure, with absolutely no bias towards anyone, the whole world would blame their mistakes on something other than the fact that what they did was wrong.
On the other hand, sentencing someone with psychological issues is a tough issue. How can you blame someone for something they don’t see as wrong? What can you do to someone who has no idea what is right and what is wrong?

9:18 AM  
Blogger jessicam said...

I think that the person cannot be considered evil because they are technically mentally sick. They do not automatically know that something like that is wrong, it could be absolutely unintentional. However, the person could possibly be taught that a thing like murdering an entire family is wrong. It might be a more difficult concept, but if you continuously tell them, don't you think that it would get the point across?

I would define evil as the intentional act of inflicting physical or emotional pain upon another living thing.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Erin G said...

I do not think that this person can be defined as completely evil. While his acts may be defined as evil deeds, his soul may not necessarily be evil. It is quite controversial. For example, in Primal Fear, by William Diehl, the reader struggles with the true saneness of the main character. It is hard to tell whether or not somebody is really psycopathic or not, and it is a hard line to draw between sanity and insanity. A true evil person would have the intent to harm. If they do not see a difference between words like "tree" and "rape", then they may not understand that actions like murder and rape are "evil." The murderer may do evil, but he may not actually be evil.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Chris B said...

Yes and no. I would say yes because though they may not know right from wrong, every human on this earth has a conscience. You would think that though they don't know that it is wrong, they would still have some sort of feeling inside them whether they know what it is or not. Personally, I think the feeling that they would have would be guilt. But they wouldn’t know what that is, so that would complicate things....

I would say no they're not evil because, like I said before, they are not entirely sure on what guilt feels like. If they don't have guilt, then what’s stopping them from doing evil? If they don't have guilt, is it possible for them to know what is and what isn’t evil? When we hear the word "psychopath" most of us probably associate that with being bad and have a distinct brain response to it. Though, if any of us heard the word "asesinato", would any of us know what that means?? Asesinato is Spanish for murder. If you did not know what that meant and had no brain response to it, would you be considered a psychopath in Spain? It all depends on how one looks at how a person thinks.

9:19 AM  
Blogger erinl said...

If a psychopath murders an entire family, I think that depending on the situation, it is still considered evil, but not their fault. On the other hand, the psycopaths could be considered evil because they should be on medication to control themselves. However, the psychopaths do not know what they are doing, and therefore, in some cases, cannot be held accountable for their actions. But, if a psychopath has a feeling that what he is doing is wrong, he/she should be held accountable. There is a difference between evil people and evil actions. Evil actions are usually on purpose, while evil people so these actions almost without a conscience because it seems they cannot feel guilty.

9:19 AM  
Blogger J Hunt said...

Due to the state of mind that a psychopath has, it is hard to judge them on being evil. When a psychopath goes on a killing spree, that action in itself is evil. Evil is anything that goes against the natural born conscience. Killing without a purpose is evil. But when someone has a disconnection with their conscience, it is hard to judge them on the same scale as ordinary people. Someone like this may not realize that killing a family is so bad. They may look at it in the same way that a child would look at playing tag with his friends. So it is difficult to really say that they are an evil person. It may not go against their conscience but is certainly goes against others consciences.

9:20 AM  
Blogger emilee p said...

How do you define evil??? Man is born innately evil so we all could be considered “evil.” However, a psychopath cannot be blamed for a crime he/she commits, to some extent. Some are completely unable to distinguish right from wrong, while others get caught up in the word “psychopath.” If one is care for as a “psychopath” all of there life they learn to act like one. People with this psychological disorder learn to get their emotions from others. If they are raised and treated in the right way, I believe that there can be completely functional psychopaths.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Kelly O said...

What the psychopath did is defined as evil, but that does not mean the psychopath is evil. He might not have realized what he was doing because he has no conscience. I don't think a person can be considered evil if they don't realize they are doing something wrong. To me, being evil means you do something bad, like murder a family, even when you know it is wrong. Killing people is evil, but since the psychopath did not know that I don't think he can be considered evil. He does need to be tought what is right and wrong, so he does not kill again.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Anoel said...

To phycopaths, what they consider evil isn't the normal, widley accepted standard of evil. If one were to become a serial killer, does that constitute as evil, even though it was perfectly acceptable in the mind and consience of the phycopath? I do believe that his acts are terribly immoral, but for one to see the phycopath as good or evil depends on your view of good and evil. Are good and evil as basic as something negative is evil, something positive is good, or has it more to do with ones intentions? If something is good for you in your own heart, and you do it thinking it is good and moral, your intentions are good. I think that good and evil actions are black and white, but judging people as good or evil is nearly impossible unless you CLEARLY know the intentions, and their nature.

9:20 AM  
Blogger OfAThousandSuns said...

Before I answer the question I would like to address the part about how people respond to "rape" and "homicide" when they hear them. The only reason why I would have increased brain activity when I hear these is not because of some sort of fear of them, or a hatred for them, but because I instantly think of what I would do if someone in my family were raped or murdered. The increase in brain activity is figuring out how I would get back at the rapist/murderer.

Anyway, to the question...

Yes, the person is considered evil. You can't just kill families and inncoent people and children; the killing of innocent people is evil no matter the circumstance. Now, if everyone in the family has raped and killed someone you love, that's a little different. The dictionary says that evil is

e·vil (vl) Pronunciation Key Audio pronunciation of "Evil" [P]
adj. e·vil·er, e·vil·est

1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked: an evil tyrant.
2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful: the evil effects of a poor diet.
3. Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous: evil omens.
4. Bad or blameworthy by report; infamous: an evil reputation.
5. Characterized by anger or spite; malicious: an evil temper.

but i don't think these are true. Evil is someone selfishly harming other people in a horrible way, and doing it on purpose. Or planning to do something, and really meaning to do it.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Jessica K said...

To answer this question you need to know what evil is defined as. Evil, I believe, is doing something bad or wrong with cruel intentions. However, evil also depends on what other people percieve it as. I do not know much about psycopaths but if one goes on a killing spree people would view this person as evil eventhough he does not know that what he's doing is evil. So even if his intentions aren't evil people percieve him as evil and is then considered evil. Many seem to view evil as an action and the intention is not thought of. If the intentions are good but the actions are bad, many perceive that person as evil.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Kyle N said...

I completely agree with what Jennifer said. She nailed that one on the dot, fo sho.

9:24 AM  
Blogger kaitlinb said...

I would disagree wiyh jessica to a degree. I think that it may be in a pssychopath's brain that killing is not evil but that does not make the evil that ruined so many lives any less. Who then should take the blame for the tragedy? The pain that hurts numberless lives is real and any person has something whether in the brain or heart that tells them it is evil. Any sense of evil, that everyone has, would tell a person that killing is evil. An evil act to such a horrible degree makes a person evil.

9:25 AM  
Blogger clay w said...

I agree with Milt in a different way. He says that the person should not be considered evil, and that is true. They should not be considered evil, but the act they have committed is one of the most evil things one can do. Human life is invaluble. The destruction of that life is the worst crime possible. If the person who has committed the crime is happy about it, as Milt said, they should be considered very evil. This means that their intentions are evil, and intentions are the root of most if not all acts. If their intentions are not evil, and rather they do not know what they are doing, they should not be considered evil, only what they are doing. Their are evil acts and there are evil intentions, and when put together the one committing them should be considered evil.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Natalie M said...

Response to milt: yes i agree with milt that the psycopath does not know what they are doing so it cant be considered evil. but i do think that from a bystander's perspective the crime they commited it evil.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Lauren F. said...

I agree with Monique, that a psychopath knows that murder is wrong unless they have been shunned from society their entire life, then they wouldn't know that murder is evil. You also can't completely judge a person to be all good or all evil. I think that all people do have some good in them no matter what even if it is not presented well. A psychopath does have different traits in their mind compared to a "normal" person.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Alyssag said...

Jennifer, you said that evil is when someone does something that is preventable, but this pychopath does not know what he is doin is wrong. Can a pycho really prevent himself from commiting a crime when he or she does not know right from wrong? Is it our responsiblity to watch out and moniter others behavior to prevent things like murder from happenin, or is it your responsibility solely?

9:27 AM  
Blogger Spencer Z said...

One of the most profound things written here is Kelly's comment, "What the psychopath did is defined as evil, but that does not mean the psychopath is evil." What society views as evil or immoral shifts overtime that the advancing and retreating tide of the ocean. In the end I believe it comes down to believing in our actions. At the twilight of our lives, if we look back at the copious times that we have hurt others, then we have failed as people.

My philosophy is: "That everyday, both myself and others will be bettered mentally, physically, and spiritually by my actions." Because when we die, the love that we give to others is all that matters.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Jordyn S said...

I agree with Milt that this is not necessarily wrong or evil. First of all, a psychopath may not even know that they are such a thing and may have no way of getting help for something they don't even know they are. Also, treating these sorts of people most likely varies between each individual and they may not even be aware they can get help until after this occurs. They may just be angred and because they have no real difference in brain response, would get the same amount of frustration out on a family as they would on a punching bag or a wall. Also, I think they should not be considered "evil" because "evil" people have malicious intents and still commit the act.

9:28 AM  
Blogger mackenzieL said...

I believe that to be evil, someone has to make a negative decision that hurts other people and causes them hardship. Along with that, I also believe that they need to be unsympathetic toward the people that they are afflicting. I do not think that evil people know that they are evil because they believe in their cause and believe they are helping the world. If a psychopath killed a family, i do believe that they can be considered evil. They made a decision to kill the family and even though they may not have a conscience they do have a mind and they do know what they are doing. They hurt people and are unsympathetic toward them and their loved ones. Psychopaths have a cause, and even though they do not have a conscience, other people are sympathetic and what they know how horrible the killing is. What ultimately determines what is evil is the perceptions of other people.

9:29 AM  
Blogger BessieS said...

Sarah- I agree with you entirely, I think that even thought they may not know good from bad they have to learn. When kids are young they do not know right from wrong but they learn. If someone were to kill anyone or multiple people, it is not forgiveable unless it is self defense like Sarah said. Evil can learn from their mistakes if they learn right from wrong in this case. But evil is something that harms someone and leaves a permanente scar on someone intentionally.

9:29 AM  
Blogger shannon a said...

I feel the same way as Sarah P feels. I think that people who go around killing people for fun or someother crazy reason then they should be considered evil. Eventhough they may not really know what they may be doing killing someone is evil unless of an accient. I feel that evil is something that is done to purposly to hurt someone.

9:29 AM  
Blogger EmilyL said...

Ryan brings up an interesting point, "If psychopaths can get away with doing such violent crimes without being considered an evil person, then what will the next defense be?" If a psychopath murders an entire family, it is an act of evil because that family did not want to die. Whether knowingly or unintentionally, this man has snuffed out the life of an entire family. The Crucible is an example of people who believe that their actions are not wrong. If Danforth honestly believed that condemning people to die was correct does it still make it "right?" No one should be allowed to take the life of another, especially without cause.

9:29 AM  
Blogger nathan a said...

Just because people who think they are good do bad things, and people who are considered bad can do good things doesn’t meant that good and evil don’t exist. I disagree with Milt. Every person has evil in them. There is no person that you could not consider evil at some level, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t good people. These rules include people who don’t have nearly as much of a conscience. One thing is certain; the actual act of the killing is evil, no matter what person does it. Everyone has a choice, even if its much harder for you than for others to do the right thing. Psychopaths need to be assisted in what's right and wrong and control some of there desires.

9:30 AM  
Blogger JordanL said...

I agree with Kelly and then others in the fact that the act of the psychopath is evil but does not make him necessarily evil. Since he is not aware of what he is doing he cannot be entirely blamed. Ryan brought up a good point though that it comes to a point when you need to draw the line in persecuting someone from a crime. I think evil is a part of someone and not really their mental state.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Megan D said...

I agree with Emilee P. Before you can decide if the person is evil, you have to decide what the defenition of evil is. If nothing indicated that the person was a psychopath, and they went around randomly killing people, then they can not know what the wrong it what they did was. It would be a very different situation if it was known that they were a psychopath, you still can't really blame them because they still don't know what they are doing is wrong, if there was someone who was supposed to be taking care of them then you could blame them. If there was no one responsible for them, it would be hard to say for sure whose fault it was.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Natalie M said...

According to Michaels comment aka the dictionary definition, the psycopath is evil because they "caused ruin injury and pain" so yes they are considered evil

9:31 AM  
Blogger christine b. said...

I agree with Erin's comment. Although they may perform evil deeds, their motives may be completely innocent and they may have no idea of the harm created by their actions. For example, if a psychopath kills an innocent family because someone ordered them to, it may not necessarily be evil because the psychopath may have no idea what he is doing however if the psychopaths motives are evil, than that qualifies him/her as evil. I define "evil" as purposefully creating harm or chaos under immoral motives.

9:31 AM  
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