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Ethics/Philosophically Speaking, am I a bad person?

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Question
Ever since I was little I have always endured continuous, vicious physical and psychological abuse from mostly everyone around me, except my family. As a teen, I have experienced horrendous betrayal from people I considered my friends and in a desperate attempt to be happy and belonged, I became vulnerable on multiple occasions only to be further abused psychologically. At around 16 I had enough of it all and decided to change my ways...

In a matter of a short time, I became a straight A student, changed my physical appearance to seem more attractive and enhance my self esteem and became much more eloquent, charming and viciously manipulative. However, I utilize these things to further nurture myself and should anyone stand in my way, I make it a goal to destroy them in any way I can. I am currently student body president at my university, studying psychology and rhetoric (which allows me to manipulate people psychologically) and, ironically, a lot of people like my personality.

I confess that I don't trust anybody, I treat people like garbage, I have come to conclude that I am much better than most other people intellectually (whether that be true or not), amongst other horrible aspects of "normal" personalities that most might consider inappropriate. This has saved me a lot of grief though. I cannot recall the last time I got angry or sad... If something negative happens, I retaliate with something worse and rejoice on the revenge...

At the end of the day, I also confess (since it is the internet after all), that I feel lonely and a great deal of pity for certain victims of mine. I sometimes feel like I shouldn't destroy people's integrity and it makes me feel bad, but I can't help myself. Needless to say, I cannot be in a relationship; I don't believe in love therefore it's impossible for me to offer any to another. I have some friends that I consider close and even though I don't trust them, I protect them from others I know will want to hurt them in some way.

Even though none of this can be seen through the surface; being that I am an extremely charismatic person, it is the truth and I can't help but feel that other people who learn this, judge me for it. Is that fair? Am I a product of the horrors of society? Should I continue doing what I'm best at (going through life being that successful asshole that I am) and not care about judgement of others? Am I a bad person?

Comment away :)

Answer
Hello there.

Let me take this moment to thank you for your interesting and revelatory question. That you are aware of what you do is important, as one is poorly-equipped to meaningfully change that which he does not know or perceive, but the decision of whether to change is one you must ultimately make.

To wit: any ethical judgment can only be made in the framework of certain ethical standards. In other words, you can only decide if an action is good or bad if you have a set of measurements to which you can compare it. At this moment, it seems as though you are at a place where you are not certain where these standards should lie, and are wondering whether they need recalibrating. For this, as well, I must thank you: I gather you are demonstrating to me more vulnerability than you would to most.

I will show my hand slightly and let you know that I often like to subject ethical considerations to what is known as the categorical imperative, an existentialist ethical tenet. It goes a little something like this: take what you're contemplating, and imagine if everybody did things the way you're contemplating that thing. In this instance, it would be everybody not trusting, not loving, and being manipulative while seeming superficially charming. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a den of vipers, to me! I'm also kind of a romantic, and I love to love, even if sometimes it means I get hurt--the experience, I feel, is worth it.
There are, of course, some plus sides to a world in which everyone was like you--people would be developing their latent talents, going out of their way to achieve bold dreams, and indeed letting people know when they're out of line to one's friends, rather than being a doormat. But it reminds me altogether too much of Ozymandias, the character from "Watchmen," who came to view his superiorities as evidence that he was simply meant to rule over all, and yet had so few qualities which we as humans hold dear--warmth, love, altruism, and the like.

That you are experiencing this moment is, to me, a potential turning point in your life. If you believe in a higher power, this may be a moment to embrace it and seek external guidance (even as you already are!), to look outside yourself for a moment and realize that we are all in this together. I give you mad props for making the most out of yourself and being ambitious, but if you ask me, bringing others to ruin, so you can climb the rubble and get to what you want more easily, is a terrible thing to do. Amusement value or a sense of power is also a poor reason. And while it is true that society has hurt you, the choice of what to do with and about that hurt lies only with you.

Let me close with an oft-quoted parting thought, which runs along the line of the categorical imperative: "be the change which you wish to see in the world." You've been hurt, but how much more amazing would it be if you used your strengths to lessen the amount of hurt in the world, rather than add to it? (:

Feel free to follow up, if you like. I'll be here.

Cheers!

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William Conde

Expertise

I am a student pursuing a career in pharmaceutical ethics and am well-versed in a number of different ethical perspectives. I wish to help others answer ethical questions of varying complexity, and, if desired, to operate within a particular ethical paradigm to provide solutions. I particularly wish to help college students and other young people address the moral dilemmas they face, while maintaining a non-judgmental and welcoming atmosphere.

Experience

I have taken numerous courses in ethics and am continuing to apply and expand my knowledge as I pursue advanced degrees leading towards a career in pharmaceutical ethics, and as an educator. I have helped others in my personal life with their own ethical conundrums, and am glad to have been able to make a difference in the lives of those people with my knowledge and advice.

Organizations
Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, Boy Scouts of America

Education/Credentials
Licensed Pharmacy Technician; B.S. degree in Chemistry (Biochemistry Emphasis).

Awards and Honors
Member of the Order of the Arrow (Honors Society of Scouting); consistently awarded Dean's Honors; National Merit Competition Finalist; IAAY State Award recipient.

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