A Loveless Condition

Dec 23 2012 @ 7:22pm

Martha Stout dismantles Kevin Dutton's recent book, The Wisdom of Psychopaths:

Like so many of us who have good hearts, Dutton would like very much to demonstrate that not every psychopath is utterly heartless. (The first sentence of the book is a startling declaration that his own father was a psychopath.) He summons a conjectural subset, called “functional psychopaths,” who are somewhat warmer. As it happens, there is an existing diagnostic term for the nearly psychopathic—the self-centered, unempathic people who nonetheless, in their own way, can love. The term is narcissism; and, reading with a psychologist’s eye to the distinction, I suspect that a number of the undiagnosed individuals described by Dutton, including perhaps his charismatic father, were narcissists, rather than living beyond the boundary line in the icy wasteland of psychopathy. If Dutton had titled his book “The Wisdom of Narcissists,” he might have made a more credible case: psychologists largely agree that human beings need a certain amount of “normal” narcissism to be healthy. But narcissism varies by degree. The emotional black hole of consciencelessness does not.

She goes on:

Psychopathy is a profound and tragic disorder, one for which, at present, there is no cure. No matter how successful he or she may be, the psychopath is not wise. He or she is a loveless and empty individual whose life will be wasted, inexorably.

Previous Dish coverage of Dutton's book here.