"They are often described as people who know the difference between right and wrong but ... the only thing that constrains ... is the fear of adverse consequences to themselves."1. To determine the difference between "right" and "wrong" you need a standard. If your own life is the standard, then is ethical egoism identical with sociopathy? If fear of adverse consequences to oneself is not appropriate, then what is? Fear of hurting the feelings of others might be a good indicator for dealing fairly with "others" whom you value for their virtues as judged by you according to the standard of your own happiness, but a vague and unfocussed concern for "everyone else's feelings" is not.
"... glow or charisma ... more charming or interesting ... more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier ... leaving us easily seduced."
Mike Erickson: "Re-Education Camp" anyone?
Bridget Armozel: Some think I'm a sociopath because ...
Robert Bidinotto: ... the criminal mind (whether you call the person a "sociopath," "psychopath," "anti-social personality," or whatever ...
William Dwyer: "I think what makes a sociopath is is someone who lacks empathy ...
2. What is the causal relationship between this "glow" (complexity, sexiness, etc.) and sociopathy? Are boring people the only safe and sane people? Or are all politicians and movie stars sociopaths? Or both? Or neither?
2.a. "... leaving us easily seduced..." Us who? If you have no sense of self-worth, if you have never examined your own life and made it to be what you want, then, yes, you probably are easily victimized by someone with a stronger will. In fact, I have wondered to myself -- and never decided, hence no post or article -- if having a stronger will is in and of itself a form of aggression in society. At what point does the "victim" lose control? Absent a gun, we say the victim could walk away, but could she/he? Police who work "bunko" squads know that often the same people are victimized time and again. Yet, in most of these frauds, the "victim" had ample time right up until they handed over their money to say no. All they lacked was will.
2.b. Morality and intelligence are not the same thing, and apparently neither are morality and will nor will and intelligence. Brilliant people can be altruists, or so we Objectivists admit.
2.c. Few would characterize Einstein or Mother Teresa as "sociopaths" -- though Objectivists might make a strong case for such a claim.
3. Mike Erickson's point rests on the truth that harm is an action. You have to actually violate the rights -- natural or contractual -- of another person in order to have done wrong. For a criminal justice seminar last semester, I wrote a paper about the U of Minnesota studies of twins and what they say about the genetic roots of behavior. Religiosity is heritable and the Twin Towers were taken down by religious fanatics, therefore, beware "the religious person next door." Do we want to prosecute (or persecute) people for their ideas and emotions?
4. The comments of Bridget, Robert, and William indicate that this term "sociopath" lacks precision. What "some people" think or what you "feel" might be some indication of something, but to use three different words to identify the same existent is to beg for differentiation and integration.
5. In a different forum topic, I suggested that you are responsible for other people's feelings. It does not take much to know what affect your words and actions will have and we act on that basis. You can make someone angry. That's obvious. Of course, that claim drew counterarguments from others who denied that you are "responsible" for someone else's feelings. Are those people "sociopaths"?
6. Finally, from the descriptions offered by the other posters here so far, can anyone deny that Ayn Rand was a sociopath -- if that word has any meaning...