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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How Evil Happens

Noga Arikha
www.aeon.co
Originally posted July 30, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

An account of the inability to feel any emotion for such perceived enemies can take us closer to understanding what it is like to have crossed the line beyond which one can maim and kill in cold blood. Observers at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague note frequently the absence of remorse displayed by perpetrators. The clinical psychologist Fran├žoise Sironi, who assesses perpetrators for the ICC and treats them and their victims, has directly seen what Lifton called the ‘murder of the self’ at work – notably with Kang Kek Iew, the man known as ‘Duch’, who proudly created and directed the Khmer Rouge S-21 centre for torture and extermination in Cambodia. Duch was one of those who felt absolutely no remorse. His sole identity was his role, dutifully kept up for fear of losing himself and falling into impotence. He did not comprehend what Sironi meant when she asked him: ‘What happened to your conscience?’ The very question was gibberish to him.

Along with what Fried calls this ‘catastrophic’ desensitisation to emotional cues, cognitive functions remain intact – another Syndrome E symptom. A torturer knows exactly how to hurt, in full recognition of the victim’s pain. He – usually he – has the cognitive capacity, necessary but not sufficient for empathy, to understand the victim’s experience. He just does not care about the other’s pain except instrumentally. Further, he does not care that he does not care. Finally, he does not care that caring does, in fact, matter. The emotionally inflected judgment that underlies the moral sense is gone.

The information is here.
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