Letters to Sam Vaknin no 11
©Stephen McDonnell and Sam Vaknin 2004, 2005
All text is copyrighted and is published here
with the permission of the authors.
27, 2005, Letter Eleven to Sam
Vaknin from Stephen
A little Evil will go a long way or Frenemies
As a well-known expert in personality disorders, I would like
to know where you would put 'toxic friend", also known as
the 'underminer', the 'frenemy', alias the friendly purveyor
of Schadenfreude? In one of the movies up for an Academy Award
this year, Sideways, there is a perfect depiction of one, the
buddy who greases the sidewalk under his friend's feet. Jane
Greer, a New York psychologist wrote a book called 'How Could
You Do This To Me?' labels them "a narcissistic personality
who present as looking out for you but who're really out for
themselves." Sounds familiar? The man or woman who is all
smiles and good cheer, seductive and complimentary, and then
they say 'the most undermining thing' to you, according to Mike
Albo. He wrote "The Underminer or The Best Friend who Casually
Destroys Your Life", a book narrated by such a character.
In the animated movie "The Incredibles" he makes his
appearance once again as Mr. Underminer. They are ancient characters
who go way back to Ancient Greece, witness Theophrastus who wrote
of them in his work Characters.
I found the previous information in an article in the Boston
Globe, where Joseph P. Kahn writes how 'downers are up'. I believe
that Shakespeare immortalized the frenemy in his play Othello.
Yago spreads salacious gossip about Othello's wife. Moliere often
uses the undermining servant to upbraid the master in his plays.
We laugh - as we cry - because we know them well. They are the
well meaning friend, the pal who lets slip a confidence, the
well intentioned goody-goody two shoes who are part and parcel
of our lives. They view themselves as upright citizens out to
help their friends with 'honesty' when silence would be the better
part of valor. But a gossip thinks a word not said is a word
wasted not understanding the African proverb that information
is like water, once it has been spilled on the sand, it can't
be picked up. The telling is the joy for the frenemy they love
to see the look on the other person's face when they tell their
juicy tidbit! Gossip circles love to stir up a fuss - as long
as they are not the target. I remember one fellow who used to
sneak into the men's room to lock himself into a stall, stand
on a toilette, and listen to what people were saying so he could
tell our boss!
On a sliding scale of one to ten, these people are minor annoyances
but given the chance they want to be big fish. They are the people
who Hannah Arndt said practice the 'banality of evil'. Most never
make it past standing on their local soapbox spouting their theories,
but they actually believe they can change the outcome of other
people's lives. I have heard the story of someone who gave a
friend a record of piano playing and it ruined his friend's interest
in playing the piano - he says. They give themselves too much
credit - but that doesn't stop them from trying. Like Sisyphus,
they keep pushing the rock of good intentions up the hill then
let it roll back onto to their friend's lives. They are why we
have the expression, 'with friends like these who needs enemies?'
Wonderfully put (tongue firmly NOT in cheek).
Frenemies! I love this coinage!
"Who's the fairest of them all?" ñ asks the
Bad Queen in the fairy tale. Having provided the wrong answer,
the mirror is smashed to smithereens. Not a bad allegory for
how the narcissist treats his "friends".
Literature helps us grasp the intricate interactions between
the narcissist and members of his social circle.
Both Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot, the world's most
renowned fiction detectives, are quintessential narcissists.
Both are also schizoids
ñ they have few friends and are largely confined to their
homes, engaged in solitary activities. Both have fatuous, sluggish,
and anodyne sidekicks who slavishly cater to their whims and
needs and provide them with an adulating gallery ñ Holmes'
Dr. Watson and Poirot's poor Hastings.
Both Holmes and Poirot assiduously avoid the "competition"
ñ equally sharp minds who seek their company for a fertilising
intellectual exchange among equals. They feel threatened by the
potential need to admit to ignorance and confess to error. Both
gumshoes are self-sufficient and consider themselves peerless.
The Watsons and Hastings of this world provide the narcissist
with an obsequious, unthreatening, audience and with the kind
of unconditional and unthinking obedience that confirms to him
his omnipotence. They are sufficiently vacuous to make the narcissist
look sharp and omniscient ñ but not so asinine as to be
instantly discernible as such. They are the perfect backdrop,
never likely to attain centre stage and overshadow their master.
Moreover, both Holmes and Poirot sadistically ñ and
often publicly ñ taunt and humiliate their Sancho Panzas,
explicitly chastising them for being dim-witted. Narcissism and
psychodynamic cousins and both Watson and Hastings are perfect
victims of abuse:
docile, understanding, malignantly
optimistic, self-deluding, and idolising.
Narcissists can't empathise or love and,
therefore, have no friends. The narcissist is one track minded.
He is interested in securing Narcissistic
Supply from Narcissistic Supply Sources. He is not interested
in people as such. He is incapable of empathising, is a solipsist,
and recognises only himself as human. To the narcissist, all
others are three dimensional cartoons, tools and instruments
in the tedious and Sisyphean task of generating and consuming
The narcissist over-values people (when
they are judged to be potential sources of such supply), uses
them, devalues them (when no longer able to supply him) and discards
them nonchalantly. This behaviour pattern tends to alienate and
to distance people.
Gradually, the social circle of the narcissist
dwindles (and ultimately vanishes). People
around him who are not turned off by the ugly succession
of his acts and attitudes ñ are rendered desperate and
fatigued by the turbulent
nature of the narcissist's life.
Those few still loyal to him, gradually
abandon him because they can no longer withstand and tolerate
the ups and downs of his career, his moods, his confrontations
and conflicts with authority, his chaotic financial state and
the dissolution of his emotional affairs. The narcissist is a
human roller coaster ñ fun for a limited time, nauseating
in the long run.
This is the process of narcissistic
Anything which might ñ however remotely
ñ endanger the availability, or the quantity of the narcissist's
Narcissistic Supply is excised. The narcissist avoids certain
situations (for instance: where he is likely to encounter opposition,
or competition). He refrains from certain activities and actions
(which are incompatible with his projected False
Self). And he steers clear of people he deems insufficiently
amenable to his charms.
To avoid narcissistic injury, the narcissist
employs a host of Emotional
Involvement Prevention Measures (EIPMs). He
becomes rigid, repetitive, predictable, boring, limits himself
to "safe subjects" (such as, endlessly, himself) and
to "safe conduct", and often rages hysterically (when
confronted with unexpected situations or with the slightest resistance
to his preconceived course of action).
The narcissist's rage
is not so much a reaction to offended grandiosity as it is the
outcome of panic. The narcissist maintains a precarious balance,
a mental house of cards, poised on a precipice. His equilibrium
is so delicate that anything and anyone can upset it: a casual
remark, a disagreement,
a slight criticism, a hint, or a fear.
The narcissist magnifies it all into monstrous,
ominous, proportions. To avoid these (not so imagined) threats
ñ the narcissist prefers to "stay
at home". He limits his social intercourse. He abstains
from daring, trying, or venturing out. He is crippled. This,
indeed, is the very essence of the malignancy that is at the
heart of narcissism: the fear of flying.
In my life I have developed a moral Teflon (a la President
Reagan) that I use when I feel as if some one is trying to get
their tender hooks into me the frenemy has a Velcro soul. If
this makes me less sympathetic so be it. As my mother used to
tell me, 'burn me once fooey on you, burn me twice fooey on me.'
A wise woman told me that when we not only see but also start
avoiding the manholes in the road of life, then we are wise.
Ever so often we have to scrape off the barnacles of frenemies
who attach themselves to us. Life is not hermetic, so in the
social discourse we give and take, which is normal. But when
a vampire tick attaches themselves to you, in whatever form,
then you have to be careful. The best way is to apply a lit match
to their body and that will make them release their head that
is embedded in your skin. Without becoming cynical, I can recognize
true friendliness that is not exploitive.
Back to pathological narcissism (I am afraid to veer too off
I compare Narcissistic Supply to drugs
because of the almost involuntary and always-unrestrained nature
of the pursuit involved in securing it. The narcissist is no
better or worse (morally speaking) than others. But he lacks
the ability to empathise precisely because he is obsessed with
the maintenance of his delicate inner balance through the (ever-increasing)
consumption of Narcissistic Supply.
The narcissist rates people around him
according to whether they can provide him with Narcissistic Supply
or not. As far as the narcissist is concerned, those who fail
this simple test do not exist. They are two-dimensional cartoon
figures. Their feelings, needs and fears are of no interest or
Those identified as potential Sources of
Narcissistic Supply are then subjected to a meticulous examination
and probing of the volume and quality of the Narcissistic Supply
that they are likely to provide. The narcissist nurtures and
cultivates these people. He caters to their needs, desires, and
wishes. He considers their emotions. He encourages those aspects
of their personality that are likely to enhance their ability
to provide him with his much needed supply.
In this very restricted sense, he regards
and treats them as "human". This is be his way of "maintaining
and servicing" his Supply Sources. Needless to say that
he loses any and all interest in them and in their needs once
he decides that they are no longer able to supply him with what
he needs: an audience, attention, and witnessing his accomplishments
and moments of glory (to serve as his external memory). The same
reaction is provoked by any behaviour judged by the narcissist
to be narcissistically injurious.
The narcissist coldly evaluates tragic
circumstances. Will they allow him to extract Narcissistic Supply
from people affected by the tragedy?
A narcissist, for instance, will give a
helping hand, console, guide, and encourage another person only
if that person is important, powerful, has access to other important
or powerful people, or to the media, or has a following - in
other words, only if the bereaved, one recovered, can provide
the narcissist with benefits or narcissistic supply.
The same applies if helping, consoling,
guiding, or encouraging that person is likely to win the narcissist
applause, approval, adoration, a following, or some other kind
of Narcissist Supply from on-lookers and witnesses to the interaction.
The act of helping another person must be documented and thus
transformed into narcissistic nourishment.
Otherwise the narcissist is not concerned
or interested in the problems and suffering of others. The narcissist
has no time or energy for anything, except for obtaining next
narcissistic fix, NO MATTER WHAT THE PRICE AND WHO IS TRAMPLED
Sam, I appreciated your comments on evil and morality in your
last answer to my letter. Let me reiterate the definition of
harm done by downers.
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people
who want to feel important.
They don't mean to do harm - but the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well
By T. S. Eliot
When you wrote, "Indeed, morality and possessing
a moral sense are not possible without empathy!"
I felt we were in synch. Then you wrote:
"The "Oxford Companion to Philosophy"
(Oxford University Press, 1995) defines it thus: "The suffering
which results from morally wrong human choices."
To qualify as evil a person (Moral Agent) must meet
1.That he can and does consciously choose between the
(morally) right and wrong and constantly and consistently prefers
2.That he acts on his choice irrespective of the consequences
to himself and to others
Clearly, evil must be premeditated. Francis Hutcheson
and Joseph Butler argued that evil is a by-product of the pursuit
of one's interest or cause at the expense of other people's interests
or causes. But this ignores the critical element of conscious
choice among equally efficacious alternatives. Moreover, people
often pursue evil even when it jeopardizes their well-being and
obstructs their interests. Sadomasochists even relish this orgy
of mutual assured destruction."
And you found the The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1999 edition)
definition of empathy as:
"The ability to imagine oneself in anther's place
and understand the other's feelings, desires, ideas, and actions.
It is a term coined in the early 20th century, equivalent to
the German Einfhlung and modeled on "sympathy." The
term is used with special (but not exclusive) reference to aesthetic
experience. The most obvious example, perhaps, is that of the
actor or singer who genuinely feels the part he is performing.
With other works of art, a spectator may, by a kind of introjection,
feel himself involved in what he observes or contemplates. The
use of empathy is an important part of the counseling technique
developed by the American psychologist Carl Rogers."
My own experiences
In my class a psychiatrist told us that to treat the mentally
ill one has to have compassion. To have compassion you must feel
empathy and for those who suffer from personality disorders this
is difficult if not impossible because they have to put themselves
in another's shoes (theory of mind). A student said he looked
at life choices as a balance sheet of good and bad outcomes,
where the bottom line influenced the decision-making. I feel
that these two views are diametrically opposed. In many cases
the financial outcomes may outweigh the moral decisions that
we should make as human beings. Slavery was one of the choices
made based on economic outcomes, as is our love of the internal
combustion engine and resulting pollution. If we take someone
and turn him or her into a commodity an object then we no longer
have a balanced standard to judge. If the bottom line of a company
counts more than the people working in the company, then the
stockholders are the winners, and the jobs will go elsewhere.
Ultimately the companies will be foreign owned with foreign workers,
and the stockholders may lose their controlling interest to foreign
stockholders. I wonder if economics has any morality?
The objectification of a person or of a world - put company
in their place- has led us to where were we are now. When Professor
David Suzuki gave a lecture to the intellectual elite of the
United States, where I was a bystander, he elucidated the problems
facing humankind. He came to the conclusion that the study of
the brain and why it makes decisions would be the factor that
would save or doom us. If we do not understand the wellspring
of our decisions then we are no longer masters of our ship -
we are like the captain of the Titanic. Why would the most powerful
country in the world, under president Ronald Reagan, embark on
a self gutting of resources and embrace some lame brain theory
of trickle down economics? The net result of this policy is that
there are richer people in the United States, and that most of
the manufacturing jobs are being outsourced. The trickle down
effect was to encourage third world countries to improve their
education and skills, so they could obtain contracts for manufacturing,
while the funding for education in the United States has languished.
The near sighted and self-serving policies of Republican administrations
(as well as Democratic ones) have resulted in a country that
is fat and happy and waiting to be butchered by leaner hungrier
and smarter wolves. What does this have to do with evil? You
If we only look at the surface, therefore reacting to perceptions
and not to facts, then we will be lured by the Pied Pipers of
fast profit, forgetting how the piper was paid in the fairy tale.
Evil thinks it can get away with anything. I will give you an
example of Evil on a major scale.
In one of my alternative lives, I was a TV news cameraman
in Lafayette, Louisiana, learning all about human foibles and
follies. Once I was elected - no other camera man wanted the
job - to go on a shoot where they had busted a huge swingers
club and I looked a table full of photographs of naked bodies
in all sorts of positions. People like to document their madness.
So it was not a surprise to learn of a murder trial where the
victim was not dead. No, she had been awarded a death sentence
because she had been infected with HIV and Hepatitis C viruses.
She had no idea where or how she was infected other than blaming
her former lover, the doctor in question. Now he swore he was
blameless. On TV he came across as a well-groomed and manicured
physician of the highest repute, married and all. He also struck
me as arrogant, lacking compassion. I wonder if those who want
to be physicians, or psychiatrists, are sometimes mentally sick
and really want to control and hurt other people?
Janice Trahan reported that her ex lover showed up one night
to inject her with vitamin B-12. In the court proceedings, the
samples of HIV were sent to be analyzed. The genetic imprint
lead to the possible conclusion of deliberate infection, collaborative
evidence showed that another one of Dr. Schmidt's patients also
had Hepatitis C. The good doctor, in his arrogance, had kept
the records for both the HIV and Hepatitis C patients like medical
pornography and thus sealed his fate. Phylogenetics saved the
day. Here is more:
Evolutionary biology to the rescue: uncovering a physician's
biowarfare against his mistress
Molecular epidemiology is the science of figuring out the
source of infectious agents by using their DNA (genome) sequences.
If you were unlucky enough to get infected with hepatitis B,
molecular epidemiology might help you figure out who gave it
to you a person with whom you had a sexual encounter? a blood
donor? a medical tech? someone else? These methods are often
studies in (short-term) evolution, because the DNA sequences
of the virus or bacterium infecting you will no longer necessarily
be the same as the DNA sequences of the virus in the person who
gave it to you. A Darwinian tree showing the relatedness among
different viral isolates allows you to make inferences about
where your virus came from.
A sensational case of HIV molecular epidemiology led to a
criminal case in Lafayette, Louisiana. A physician was accused
of injecting his former mistress with blood containing HIV. He
had been giving her vitamin B injections (to boost her sex drive),
and it was supposedly the final injection in August of 1994 that
contained the blood with HIV just before this injection, she
had indicated that she was terminating their relationship. When
the woman was diagnosed with HIV and hepatitis C in December,
1994, she suspected the physician's injection as the source;
at the time of a blood donation in April, 1994, she had been
negative for both viruses. This case was unusual in that the
person infecting the woman (the physician) was not himself infected,
so it was necessary both to locate the patient whose HIV infected
the woman and to demonstrate that the physician had access to
this patient's blood. Records were discovered in the physician's
office indicating that blood had been drawn from two patients
during the week in question; one patient was previously known
to be HIV+ and the other positive for hepatitis-C. Phylogenetic
analyses (Darwinian "trees" of the virus sequences)
showed that the HIV sequences of the ex-mistress clustered within
those of the patient with HIV, supporting her story (State of
Louisiana Criminal Dockett # 96CR73313, D. Hillis, personal communication).
The physician was convicted of attempted second-degree murder
and sentenced to a 50 y term in prison in this first use of phylogenetics
in U.S. criminal court.
The doctor appealed his verdict to the state supreme court
and this was the verdict in 30 page pdf file:
My comments on this
Can we label this as 'evil'? I think most sane people would.
In the Bible Luke 2:23 it says, "Doctor, heal thyself."
Perhaps we should say to the evil, cure thyselves? What if they
know not what they do?
They do evil and wicked deeds but like the Pharisees, they
are think themselves innocent and powerful, sitting in the front
pews, like ducks in a row, smug and almighty, fearing no god,
or God, then how can we cure them? Are they like Gyroscopes that
keep on their paths, never wavering from their truth? How many
truths are there, you may well ask? How many people are there
on the earth? And in each brain how many different possible truths?
An infinite number! How many will come out and claim victory?
The loudest one, the one that repeats itself over and over? Certainly
the National Socialists took this route, as have many before
and after. Keep repeating the same thing and maybe your audience
will be broken into believing it, if no other voices speak out.
Of course, people will ask uncomfortable questions, maybe these
are like Jesus' parables, obscure and difficult to understand.
Maybe a question will be like a stone in a shoe, hurting the
walker to the point where their gait changes, likewise their
thinking? The Irish have a prayer to God that asks Him to punish
their enemies, or at least make them limp to identify them.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, "What is in a name, that you
call evil by another name, would it stink the same?"
That evil exists in our world is a given. That evil men and
women are evil is sadly true, but what breaks one's heart is
that evil needs a few people who let it go by, ignore it, and
refuse to see it or label it as such out of self interest or
ignorance. Hitler came to power carried on the shoulders of the
German people because he embodied their blood lust and violence
as a vengeful hero. Evil needs the company of the fear full masses.
Good deeds are done by the solitary brave soul who confronts
the dragon. But what if the damsel in distress is in cahoots
with the dragon?
As to your comment:
There was one man who dedicated his life, both figuratively
and literally, to the study of narcissism as the moral future
of mankind. His name was Friedrich Nietzsche.
Friedrich Nietzsche 's uberman of smacks of the NPD, doesn't
it? Certainly the National Socialists thought so, they embraced
his ideas and see what they did...
Is there any necessary connection between our actions and
the happiness of others? Disregarding for a moment the murkiness
of the definitions of "actions" in philosophical literature
- two types of answers were hitherto provided.
Sentient Beings (referred to, in this essay, as "Humans"
or "persons") seem either to limit each other - or
to enhance each other's actions. Mutual limitation is, for instance,
evident in game theory. It deals with decision outcomes when
all the rational "players" are fully aware of both
the outcomes of their actions and of what they prefer these outcomes
to be. They are also fully informed about the other players:
they know that they are rational, too, for instance. This, of
course, is a very farfetched idealization. A state of unbounded
information is nowhere and never to be found. Still, in most
cases, the players settle down to one of the Nash equilibria
solutions. Their actions are constrained by the existence of
The "Hidden Hand" of Adam Smith (which, among other
things, benignly and optimally regulates the market and the price
mechanisms) - is also a "mutually limiting" model.
Numerous single participants strive to maximize their (economic
and financial) outcomes - and end up merely optimizing them.
The reason lies in the existence of others within the "market".
Again, they are constrained by other peopleís motivations,
priorities ands, above all, actions.
All the consequentialist theories of ethics deal with mutual
enhancement. This is especially true of the Utilitarian variety.
Acts (whether judged individually or in conformity to a set of
rules) are moral, if their outcome increases utility (also known
as happiness or pleasure). They are morally obligatory if they
maximize utility and no alternative course of action can do so.
Other versions talk about an "increase" in utility
rather than its maximization. Still, the principle is simple:
for an act to be judged "moral, ethical, virtuous, or good"
- it must influence others in a way which will "enhance"
and increase their happiness.
The flaws in all the above answers are evident and have been
explored at length in the literature. The assumptions are dubious
(fully informed participants, rationality in decision making
and in prioritizing the outcomes, etc.). All the answers are
instrumental and quantitative: they strive to offer a moral measuring
rod. An "increase" entails the measurement of two states:
before and after the act. Moreover, it demands full knowledge
of the world and a type of knowledge so intimate, so private
- that it is not even sure that the players themselves have conscious
access to it. Who goes around equipped with an exhaustive list
of his priorities and another list of all the possible outcomes
of all the acts that he may commit?
But there is another, basic flaw: these answers are descriptive,
observational, phenomenological in the restrictive sense of these
words. The motives, the drives, the urges, the whole psychological
landscape behind the act are deemed irrelevant. The only thing
relevant is the increase in utility/happiness. If the latter
is achieved - the former might as well not have existed. A computer,
which increases happiness is morally equivalent to a person who
achieves a quantitatively similar effect. Even worse: two persons
acting out of different motives (one malicious and one benevolent)
will be judged to be morally equivalent if their acts were to
increase happiness similarly.
But, in life, an increase in utility or happiness or pleasure
is CONDITIONED upon, is the RESULT of the motives behind the
acts that led to it. Put differently: the utility functions of
two acts depend decisively on the motivation, drive, or urge
behind them. The process, which leads to the act is an inseparable
part of the act and of its outcomes, including the outcomes in
terms of the subsequent increase in utility or happiness. We
can safely distinguish the "utility contaminated" act
from the "utility pure (or ideal)" act.
If a person does something which is supposed to increase the
overall utility - but does so in order to increase his own utility
more than the expected average utility increase - the resulting
increase will be lower. The maximum utility increase is achieved
overall when the actor forgoes all increase in his personal utility.
It seems that there is a constant of utility increase and a conservation
law pertaining to it. So that a disproportionate increase in
one's personal utility translates into a decrease in the overall
average utility. It is not a zero sum game because of the infiniteness
of the potential increase - but the rules of distribution of
the utility added after the act, seem to dictate an averaging
of the increase in order to maximize the result.
The same pitfalls await these observations as did the previous
ones. The players must be in the possession of full information
at least regarding the motivation of the other players. "Why
is he doing this?" and "why did he do what he did?"
are not questions confined to the criminal courts. We all want
to understand the "why's" of actions long before we
engage in utilitarian calculations of increased utility. This
also seems to be the source of many an emotional reaction concerning
human actions. We are envious because we think that the utility
increase was unevenly divided (when adjusted for efforts invested
and for the prevailing cultural mores). We suspect outcomes that
are "too good to be true". Actually, this very sentence
proves my point: that even if something produces an increase
in overall happiness it will be considered morally dubious if
the motivation behind it remains unclear or seems to be irrational
or culturally deviant.
Two types of information are, therefore, always needed: one
(discussed above) concerns the motives of the main protagonists,
the act-ors. The second type relates to the world. Full knowledge
about the world is also a necessity: the causal chains (actions
lead to outcomes), what increases the overall utility or happiness
and for whom, etc. To assume that all the participants in an
interaction possess this tremendous amount of information is
an idealization (used also in modern theories of economy), should
be regarded as such and not be confused with reality in which
people approximate, estimate, extrapolate and evaluate based
on a much more limited knowledge.
Two examples come to mind:
Aristotle described the "Great Soul". It is a virtuous
agent (actor, player) that judges himself to be possessed of
a great soul (in a self-referential evaluative disposition).
He has the right measure of his worth and he courts the appreciation
of his peers (but not of his inferiors) which he believes that
he deserves by virtue of being virtuous. He has a dignity of
demeanour, which is also very self-conscious. He is, in short,
magnanimous (for instance, he forgives his enemies their offences).
He seems to be the classical case of a happiness-increasing agent
- but he is not. And the reason that he fails in qualifying as
such is that his motives are suspect. Does he refrain from assaulting
his enemies because of charity and generosity of spirit - or
because it is likely to dent his pomposity? It is sufficient
that a POSSIBLE different motive exist - to ruin the utilitarian
Adam Smith, on the other hand, adopted the spectator theory
of his teacher Francis Hutcheson. The morally good is a euphemism.
It is really the name provided to the pleasure, which a spectator
derives from seeing a virtue in action. Smith added that the
reason for this emotion is the similarity between the virtue
observed in the agent and the virtue possessed by the observer.
It is of a moral nature because of the object involved: the agent
tries to consciously conform to standards of behaviour which
will not harm the innocent, while, simultaneously benefiting
himself, his family and his friends. This, in turn, will benefit
society as a whole. Such a person is likely to be grateful to
his benefactors and sustain the chain of virtue by reciprocating.
The chain of good will, thus, endlessly multiply.
Even here, we see that the question of motive and psychology
is of utmost importance. WHY is the agent doing what he is doing?
Does he really conform to society's standards INTERNALLY? Is
he GRATEFUL to his benefactors? Does he WISH to benefit his friends?
These are all questions answerable only in the realm of the mind.
Really, they are not answerable at all.
Back to friendship:
What are friends for and how can a friendship be tested? By
behaving altruistically, would be the most common answer and
by sacrificing one's interests in favour of one's friends. Friendship
implies the converse of egoism, both psychologically and ethically.
But then we say that the dog is "man's best friend".
After all, it is characterized by unconditional love, by unselfish
behaviour, by sacrifice, when necessary. Isn't this the epitome
of friendship? Apparently not. On the one hand, the dog's friendship
seems to be unaffected by long term calculations of personal
benefit. But that is not to say that it is not affected by calculations
of a short-term nature. The owner, after all, looks after the
dog and is the source of its subsistence and security. People
ñ and dogs ñ have been known to have sacrificed
their lives for less. The dog is selfish ñ it clings and
protects what it regards to be its territory and its property
(including ñ and especially so - the owner). Thus, the
first condition, seemingly not satisfied by canine attachment
is that it be reasonably unselfish.
There are, however, more important conditions: