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September 02, 2007



About the only good job the Bolsheviks ever diid was on feral children. How disappointing that a Marxist like you doesn't explain their wisdom to us all.

Mark Wadsworth

"In this way, conscience can emerge without God, though socialization"

Too bloody right!

Steve B

One reason South Park is funny is because 8 year-olds ARE that callous and cruel to each other. Small children can be monsters, and not in any exaggerated sense. I find it very easy to believe that an absence of socialisation as a child could lead to someone adults would view as sociopathic (or psychopathic, if the childhood taught them that harming others provides rewards).


"Feral youths" could result from very effective socialisation: this person was weak, so we all ganged up against him. Therefore, I must never appear weak.

This was the usual process throughout most of history.

Maynard Handley

Or, here's a radical thought, maybe it's the result of mirror neurons or some similar such system within the brain --- it's not like we understand every aspect of brain physiology.

More generally, this post shows the pretty pathetic state of public discourse these days. The two options posited for the generation of morality are god or socialization. It's like the last forty years of research into this subject just never happened (eg Marc Hauser or Jonathan Haidt). Who needs to consult those egg-head academics when we can rut around in the same tired arguments of 300 years ago?


their bad behaviour in childhood was not judged frankly by others?

Very true. But why were they not judged? The criticism-free and child-centric society so belovedly nurtured by socialists and teachers.

If you stop telling ten year-olds to take their seats off the train seats, it won't be long before you are having to remove their shoes from people's faces.


Well, I thought this was a good post, whatever anyone else says. A few days ago, in the pub, everyone was asked 'what superhero power would you have if you had the choice'. Rather than the ability to see through clothing or travel through time, I picked 'that ability to see myself as others do'.

I said this because I figured that it would give me a personal advantage in everyday dealings. The fact that it would also mean that I'd know how to behave more co-operatively wasn't the reason I said it - but it would obviously be the result. And my behaviour would probably improve as a result as well.

And I understand the desire to 'catch people being bad', but the logic of all of this is that it's worth reminding people what it's like to be caught being good every now and then. Socialisation isn't always the same thing as regular bollockings, is it?

Matt Munro

Freud called the concience the superego - basically an internalisation of the fathers moral sense. Might explain why the progeny of single parents are so badly behaved. Models of socilisation would explain concience as the internalisatrion of wider cultural values, so a culture which had well defined and explicit rules of behaviour (basically the opposite of the feminised, relativistic froth we have now)would inculcate a strong moral sense.


Kant was brilliant no doubt about it, but with Transcendental idealism he left the door open for all sorts of religions and none rational thought, including academic religions such as Post-Modernism, the religion of choice of our Modern liberal elite. Of which Humps is indeed a on the record follower

Chris Bertram

I think you are reading Humphrys rather uncharitably Chris. What you propose is a naturalistic explanation of the existence conscience. But that doesn't give you what Humphrys probably wants, which is a reason to take the promptings of conscience as authoritative. Indeed, your naturalistic explanation actually undermines that, by telling us that those promptings are simply a product of the way we were brought up.

(It is a further question, of course, whether "God" gives Humphry's what he wants.)

bird dog

True sociopathy is an inherited personality tendency, same as IQ and most personality tendencies. No amount of "socialization" can erase it.

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