Regret, Remorse & Guilt.
Psychopaths are said to not be able to feel Remorse. They are also said to not feel Guilt. But can they feel Regret?
I have in the past done things which at the time when I did them seemed to be the only right thing to do, but in hindsight I can see I overlooked important details and as a concequence ended up doing something that was wrong in some way or another. Doing something wrong can pertain to almost everything in existence, from making the wrong bet because you didn’t know the stakes were fixed, firing the wrong employee because you had been fed the wrong information for a long time, or by causing pain to someone because you either didn’t know they would be able to retaliate later or because your impression of them as a person was wrong and later you learned that you liked them well enough to not wish the pain on them that you inflicted. ..Etc. etc. etc…
Though there are cases where I have felt regret without a shadow of a doubt, mostly I would say ‘regret’ is perhaps a strong word for how I feel about having done something wrong. After all, what’s the point in regret when I can’t change it anyway?! I think that’s the word ‘regret’ means to ‘SEE’, or ‘THINK’, I was wrong/stupid(naive/inexperienced)/etc., whereas remorse has a larger emphasis on dwelling on what I did wrong, and on feeling the embarrassment/sadness/etc. this generates.
The Oxford Dictionary reads: ‘Deep regret for wrongs committed, compunction, compassionate reluctance to inflict pain (especially without remorse).’
Okay, remorse is a form of strong regret. I think it’s what I mean when I say: Remorse is the same as Regret, but with emphasis on focusing on the past wrongs committed rather than on doing better or good in the present. I acknowledge that it is not a question about wasting energy on feelings that can’t change anything, because the person who feels remorse does not choose to do so. They simply cannot help it! A person who feels true remorse had no choice or say in the matter. And I bet most people, if they could choose, would choose not to feel remorse. It’s horrible feeling where the “victim” accuses themselves, feel embarrassed, feel stupid or bad, and are not able to shake this devastation of their self-esteem.
In my view, remorse is good for punishment on individuals who’s energy cannot be put to better use in any way, and provided the society can affort to indulge in letting an individual suffer solely for the sake of retribution.
That said, my true feelings about punishment are that punishing a wrongdoer should be done by the wronged, not by any society or coercive enforcement of law – provided the wrong deed was targeted at an individual or group of individuals, or a minority. But then, this is probably always the case, expcept for actions of war.
I believe Guilt is an abstraction, it is not a feeling, but an adjective that applies to people who act in certain ways in certain situations according norms and rules in their society at the time.