Conscience-Free, We Can Rationalize Anything and Seem Genius
Evil genius is often the opposite of strategic skill and foresight.
Posted Mar 23, 2020
In a competition, what you don’t have matters as much as what you do. If you’re not carrying the burdens that constrain your opponents, you have an advantage over them.
Lacking consciences, sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists, and gaslighters – here loosely generalized as evil geniuses have the edge over anyone tugged and limited by a conscience.
Bringing no conscience to an argument can be as advantageous as bringing a nuke to a fistfight. Without conscience, you’re free to use any maneuver whenever you want. You can rationalize anything including your ability to rationalize anything.
That includes lying, hypocrisy, playing victim or tyrant, brat or prude, projecting all curses (I know you are but what am I?) and reverse-projecting all blessings (I know I am but what are you?) with a fleetfooted nimbleness impossible for anyone hamstrung by a conscience.
We’re inclined to think that evil geniuses are strategic geniuses, masters of three-dimensional chess with elaborate missions, plans – especially as they thread through complicated mazes and succeed, often rapidly, to positions of enormous power. To mere mortals, such assents seem impossible without great strategic skill. We overlook how lightfooted people become when they’re not weighed down by the burdens of maintaining their integrity.
Of course, evil geniuses insist that they have integrity, missions, and plans bigger and better than anyone's. Those are handy maneuvers too: Pretending that their integrity, mission, and plan is so important that they override all other concerns. Conscience-free, they can dress up their short-sightedness as visionary and not wince at their own mendacity.
It’s easy therefore to overlook how evil genius may simply be living moment to moment, claiming every immediate advantage. Conscience-free, they can always rationalize any past action forever. The past and future are no burden when conscience is no burden. It’s not three-dimensional chess, not even evil intent, just an endless succession of moment-to-moment self-rationalizations.
What presents as evil genius may be the opposite of what we associate with genius. Genius is not something someone possesses in isolation from their circumstances, it’s being in the right place with the right mind just as good luck is where ben prepared meets opportunity.
Evil genius is being prepared by nature, nurture, or both to live without a conscience meet the opportunity to take advantage of others. It’s genius because humans don't expect such short-sighted freedom from conscience from our fellow humans.
The authoritarian leader need not be more calculating than their gullible authoritarian followers. Absence of conscience is not just more efficient, in the right circumstances, it’s also more effective. It’s how authoritarian leaders ascend complicated mazes to power.
As they climb, conscience-free followers flock simply for the immediate advantages of association and affiliation with a climber. Others with consciences go with the flow, shedding their consciences in exchange for the advantages of living without one.
It’s easy for people to drop their conscience when they’re surrounded by people who claim to have the most conscience. For example: “We are the righteous ones, saints at war against the sinners. It is our duty to do all we can to win this existential battle. No deed too dirty for us saints.”
Psychologists suggest that evil genius as the combination of three distinct exhibited traits, the Dark Triad:
Though there is the appearance of all three, what we see isn’t always what they’ve got. Not everyone who appears self-infatuated is. Not everyone who achieves power does so with machiavellian strategic foresight, and not everyone who has shed conscience qualifies as a psychopath, a term that has had a complicated history but ends up primarily used for people innately conscience-less, much as people born color blind can’t see colors.
I think of the Dark Triad as representing three enviable godlike qualities:
Narcissism: Omnificence – I am a saint, the pinnacle of goodness, virtue, honor. A saint-it-all.
Machiavellian behavior: Omniscience – I am infallible, right about everything. A know-it-all.
Psychopathy: Omnipotence – I am all-powerful. A win-it-all.
Liberated from the burdens of conscience, evil geniuses can mix and match maneuvers to pose as though they have all three of these Godlike qualities, each the justification for the others in a kind of A-holy trinity:
I’m a saint ‘cause I win.
As a saint, I can sin.
‘Cause I sin, I can win.
Omnificence (Narcissism) justifies omnipotence (Psychopathy): I am an oppressed, un-appreciated saint. Mine is an all-out war against the forces of evil. No apologies, no remorse – It is my moral duty to do anything and everything to beat my oppressors and win.
Omnipotence (Psychopathy) proves omniscience (Machiavellian behavior): Every time I win it proves that I’m smarter than everyone else. I know everything including that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Only the gullible are dumb enough to try to be saints.
Omniscience (Machiavellian behavior) rationalizes omnificence (Narcissism): Being right proves I’m righteous. Because saints always prevail against the forces of evil.
Now, do they really believe that they’re omnificent, omniscient and omnipotent?
Wrong question. To say they think is to miss the point. Evil geniuses don’t have to think, wonder, or believe anything. They’ll pose as though they believe whatever gives them an immediate advantage. It’s a mindless shell game, a robotic reach for whatever gesture gives them the advantage in the moment.
For example, we sometimes hear that evil geniuses believe might makes right. They pretend they do when they’re winning but when they’re losing, they pretend that might makes wrong, that they’re oppressed saints.
Those of us who are not evil geniuses tend to project our feelings and responses onto them. It’s so hard to conceive that they are not suffering when we know we would be if behaving as they do. Life would be a whole lot easier if they did really suffer deep down.
The naturalist fallacy is that what is, should be: There's war so there should be war.
The reverse is also a fallacy: What should be is. They should suffer so they do suffer.
But they don't. Evil geniuses are like zombies, though much more cunning and worse, not cunning because they're strategic but because they are unburdened by conscience. There's nothing they can't rationalize including their power to rationalize everything.
We’re taught to take everyone seriously, to respect everyone’s beliefs. With evil genius, it’s hard to remember that they don’t really care about anything they say, even the things they insist on with the most insistent urgency, passion, and postures of adamantine conviction.
Here's one of my podcast episodes about the conscience-free lifestyle.
Here's my video illustrating and identifying the range of moves available to the conscience free.