The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing
A therapist advises a woman who’s been stalked and harassed by her psychopathic ex-husband to meet him over coffee to address co-parenting. A young woman with severe somatization of trauma is told by her therapist that her psychopathic brother was engaging in sexual “play” when he was raping her vaginally with objects as children. A young man avoids necessary treatment because his perpetrator, his father, is an iconic philanthropist.
Why is the burden of proof on the victim to establish a legitimate case for his/her suffering? Why aren’t these victims believed, and why are facilitators of an empirical science denying the psychological reality of evil?
The answers to these questions are complex. Many people, including clinicians, are blinded by the psychopath’s mask of normalcy. We stigmatize victims, denouncing them as inferior given their emotional instability, while lauding the capable and convincing psychopath. Our innate tendency to maintain internal equilibrium and illusions of safety compel us to rely on elaborate psychological defenses to deny threatening information.
What is Human Evil?Evil denotes an absence of good. It is that which is depraved and immoral. In this article we will address the conundrum of human evil—specifically the evil we inflict upon one another—and the collective denial of its very existence, which in turn allows for evil’s proliferation.
In “Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason” philosopher Immanuel Kant makes the claim that evil is innate to the human species. According to Kant, self-conceit is the trait responsible for moral corruption (Kant, I. Religion Within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Robert M. Adams et al, Eds. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press;1998).
An extreme propensity for evil has been referred to by psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley as a neuropsychiatric defect that fuels the need to destroy. According to Cleckley, the psychopath has the uncanny ability to conceal this defect (Cleckley HM. The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues about the So-Called Psychopathic Personality. Whitefish, MT: Literary Licensing; 2011).
We are deceived, even deluded, by the psychopath’s disguise of virtue, his glibness, ostensible calm, status, and charm. The psychopath’s veneer of normality can be so seamless it becomes implausible to consider the malevolence behind the mask, even for trained clinicians.
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