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Moral Sociopathy

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"But I have a perfectly healthy brain. It just doesn't contain feelings. And that doesn't necessarily make me a bad person. It just means I have to work a little harder than everyone else to be good."
Amanda, Thoroughbreds

Sociopaths are essentially the human version of Always Chaotic Evil in most media. Since we consider morality to be good, they are naturally depicted as selfish and immoral.

However, reality is quite a bit more complicated, and some works reflect this.

While it is somewhat Truth in Television, sociopaths are still human, and it's not unnatural that sociopaths have a sense of right and wrong, even though it is highly likely to be completely different from what other people consider that to be. Many diagnosed sociopaths are known to have moral codes, often unique to them, but occasionally based on preexisting social codes (such as The Golden Rule) as filtered through their very particular perspectives. Naturally, since these types of morality focus more on abstract concepts rather than on the feelings or reactions of people themselves, expect some rather interesting and/or nasty extremism to crop up: either occasional or a lot. The upshot is, they can easily like individuals and work towards the welfare of people as groups without actually caring for or about them and what they feel all that much. Emotional toes are likely to be trodden on and then shrugged off with an easy smile, and not even out of any deliberate calculation on their part, because they might very well not even be fully aware that they have trodden.

By definition, sociopaths are largely or totally incapable of normal levels of guilt, empathy, or remorse — thus, whenever they subscribe to a moral code, said code will either be reinterpreted into something rather more amoral than usual or simply be amoral from the outset. They might well feel "bad" or uncomfortable about doing something they think is wrong, or that goes against their code, but they won't necessarily be able to feel guilty about that and will shrug it off as just one of those things, or justify to themselves what they did as meeting The Needs of the Many, or what have you, no matter how much Insane Troll Logic they have to employ to reach their conclusion. This guilt-free confidence of theirs in their own beliefs, abilities, and logic chains can come across as highly charismatic to a lot of the people around them, so expect The Charmer or The Social Expert to come with the package, even if they openly display their blind spots.

The psychologist Andrzej M. Łobaczewski described something somewhat similar to this as a "schizoidal psychopath"note  — someone who may have a conscience, but it's so heavily distorted that their moral codes end up demented, and whose attitude toward society thus becomes that of a Knight Templar.

See also Principles Zealot, when one is completely obsessed with their moral code above everything; some moral sociopaths are twisted versions of these as well since they care about their empathy-restricted moral code almost as much as they do about themselves. This twist can be bad to be around, without necessarily being Evil or even conventionally Good for that matter (it's going to hit Lawful, though). However, moral sociopaths need not be always overwhelmed by extremism. Many can simply hit Nominal Hero, who, while lacking empathy, still have their moral codes to restrict them from dangerous, socially damaging behaviors in many ways. Also compare/contrast Black-and-White Insanity, Byronic Hero, and Sociopathic Hero. Also, at a bit more of a stretch, Comedic Sociopathy.note  See also Evil Hero, in which the person in question truly is evil through and through but is merely doing a traditionally heroic job like police officer or firefighter.

Moral sociopaths are both born and raised, so you can't just make one without most of the ingredients being there. The more socially acceptable types are likely to have had strong role models of the Mentor Archetype school who helped them develop their codes around a solid, workable framework to hang their unconventional outlooks from, or just some really decent parental figures they wish to live up to. By contrast, the rather more extreme versions will have a rotten background with terrible mentors and/or role models giving them a valid Freudian Excuse or two (or six) handy that will go quite some way to explain the somewhat questionable nature of the moral code they have cobbled together out of sheer spite, the will to completely confound the bad examples and/or the wish to survive.

This is not to be confused with Übermensch. Moral sociopaths can have their own unique moral codes, but they are just as likely to adhere to already-established things like Christianity and Communism.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Akagi: While it's never made clear whether or not the titular character is indeed a sociopath, he does have a moral code he follows that has very little overlap with 'traditional' morality. Akagi considers lying, cheating, and hurting others to be acceptable as long as whoever is doing them is willing to let the same happen to them if they lose. He despises double standards and people unwilling to risk anything.
  • Black Butler shows most 'supernaturals' having codes that by their very nature are immoral for humans.
    • The first season Big Bad Ash/Angela wants a world of purity and light — burning cities, murdering children, screwing dogs, whatever it takes. This is possibly a side-effect of being a Fallen Angel, since angels shouldn't be on earth in the first place.
    • Ciel says that demons (including Sebastian, the eponymous Black Butler) do not have morality or attachments, only aesthetics; this includes following orders, which may be viewed as a sort of morality code. Even though Sebastian himself never shows any compassion or guilt, he does care about his assets, even if for only practical reasons (to get their loyalty).
  • Lloyd Asplund of Code Geass, though more of a Mad Scientist, claims that he is a sociopath, caring only about science and engineering. An instance is when he decides to marry Milly Ashford, just so he could inherit the third generation Knightmare Frame in the family's possession. Later on, when Milly breaks off the engagement so she can live her own life, he isn't overly concerned and lets her go without a fuss.
  • Dragon Ball Super: Zamasu, the Arc Villain of the Future Trunks Saga, truly and honestly believes that mortals are foolish and dangerous creatures that can challenge the gods and should be destroyed for the good of the universe. When he tries to kill Gowasu for his earrings, he freely admits that what he's doing is evil, but he believes that said evil will lead to a greater good.
  • Solf J. Kimblee from Fullmetal Alchemist is one of the evilest examples. While he is an Ax-Crazy Mad Bomber, it is well-established that he does have a few standards, like always sticking by your principles (regardless of what those principles may be) and telling the truth. He highly respects people who stick to their guns through anything, but he'll still blow up their house with a Slasher Smile.
  • Wolfgang Grimmer from Monster is a sociopath (at least according to himself) who is incapable of empathy and emotion. This has made his moral code, which is to fake his emotions as best he can at all times so that no one can tell he's a sociopath, all the more important to him. He's so good at it that only people who really get to know him can tell that he lacks emotional affect. His wife only truly noticed it after their son died in an accident and Wolfgang was unable to fake mourning him. By contrast, Johan Liebert is a more traditional sociopath.
  • The Marines from One Piece are filled with many who have this view, usually seeing the letter of the law as more important than the spirit of the law.
    • Admiral Sakazuki/Akainu's code is of absolute justice untempered by mercy or restraint, to the point that he'd slaughter civilian refugees just on the off-chance one of those "wanted" by them escapes and renders the Marine's efforts useless. However, he is facing some of the problems with this post-Time Skip: as Fleet Admiral, he now has to clash with being in charge of the whole thing while butting heads with the Five Stars when they do actions for the Celestial Dragons that meanwhile damage the reputation of the Marines. Furthermore, he now has to deal with unruly subordinates who don't prescribe to his code and are on the level of power that he would need to take seriously.
    • His fellow Admiral Borsalino/Kizaru, while not as extreme, is also perfectly willing to target civilians to force his targets to take the blow instead and treats the hunting of pirates and criminals more like a game than a duty. It's implied that the main, if not only, reason that Borsalino is less extreme than Sakazuki is that by his own admission he's too lazy to go all-out like Sakazuki.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Kyubey is debatably this, viewing emotions as a mental disorder and simply not understanding human morality. At the same time, he's trying to prevent the heat death of the universe. The 'debatable' part is that it's not clear if he genuinely believes his actions are for the greater good or if he is selfishly trying to preserve the lives of his race.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Fiction 
  • The Princess from Bad Future Crusaders has one of these just barely concealed by her affable nature, as best seen when she politely claims lying is wrong while calmly strangling Silver Spoon to death:
    "It did not have to end like this, but no matter. I would say it was nice knowing you, but quite frankly that would be a lie, which is wrong."
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act IV: Hokuto Kaneshiro is firmly convinced that all living beings, human and monster alike, are evil, destructive beings who endlessly fight and kill one another simply for being different and only care about living for the sake of living; he sincerely believes that all life is a plague, and the only way to achieve true peace is to resurrect Alucard and allow him to destroy everything.
  • The author's version of the Inquisitor in the Dragon Age: Inquisition fic All This Venatori Nonsense is a man with violent impulses who sees murder as a form of stress relief and struggles to relate to other people on even a basic level, among many other character flaws. Despite this, he is one of the heroes of the story and does have a moral code of some kind, eventually even making friends he truly cares about in the Inquisition. His lack of empathy for other people usually just means he has an easier time making pragmatic decisions than others would in his position.

    Films — Animated 
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney): Frollo is selfish in his lust for Esmeralda, but otherwise he sincerely believes half of the things he does genuinely are what God intended (albeit because he, Frollo, couldn't possibly do anything God didn't want him to do). A pretty big break from the literary version, who was a much nicer Anti-Villain and probably not a sociopath at all.
  • According to the creator's commentary, in Kung Fu Panda 2, Lord Shen exhibits traits of this. He knows how utterly horrendous his actions were, but he refuses to admit how wrong he was about his parents because it's the only way he can justify the genocide of the pandas. As far as he is concerned, it's too late for his redemption, and rendering everything as accidents is unthinkable.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Warden in Marmoulak wants to get all of his prisoners to heaven - even if he has to drag them there kicking and screaming.
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout: Erica Sloane, the new head of the CIA, ultimately comes to agree with Ethan Hunt's compassionate work ethic not out of any respect or agreement with his morality, but only because of her not needing to feel any sympathy about any potential collateral damage while many others can.
  • Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs cuts a man's ear off for fun, has no sense of professionalism, guns down innocent bystanders, and clearly has no regard for his fellow robbers or their well-being. On the flip side, he appears to have a great deal of personal loyalty to his employer Joe and is shown (in a flashback) to have refused a plea bargain and instead serving a jail sentence when he could have walked by implicating Joe in a smuggling operation that he was caught in. He also, as well as almost all of the other criminals, is offended when Mr. Pink refuses to tip their waitress in the opening scene.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Jedi aspire to be this, as they value morality, but their whole purpose is to forsake emotion. The old EU occasionally explores this in greater detail, sometimes to horrific detail. This is implied to be the Fatal Flaw that led to the fall of the Order, and something that Luke Skywalker is careful not to repeat in the New Order.
    • The EU also portrays Darth Vader as this, in his absolute devotion to The Empire and The Emperor. It's ultimately subverted in that Beneath the Mask Vader hates himself for what he does, and the very act of being Darth Vader is the man's own self-inflicted punishment for killing his wife.
  • Amanda from Thoroughbreds says that incapable of feeling anything. This includes shame, guilt, or fear, but also sadness, anger, pride, or even happiness, barring the final minute of the film, when she sports a genuine smile while looking at a picture of her and Lily as little kids. She tells Lily that growing up, she became so adept at mimicking emotions that for a long time she believed that she actually felt them. She has little social skills and shares other traits common with sociopaths, including an affinity for high-risk behavior, unbroken eye contact that makes other people uncomfortable, and zero fear response, even when someone holds a gun to her head. However, she holds that this doesn't make her an inherently bad person, she just has to work harder at being good than most people. She dislikes those who are evil or unkind, she doesn't enjoy inflicting pain and is never outright cruel to anyone, and she seems to have cognitive empathy as seen when she puts down her prized horse because he was dying and she didn't want him to suffer. From her perspective, murder is okay if the victim does more harm than good in the world — she compares it to putting down a horse with a broken leg. She is also the page's quote.
    "I think most of this country's moral norms comes from weird old Puritan bullshit. A human life isn't some sacred thing. There's nothing holy about a dick and a vaj getting together and spitting out a little dude. If that dude causes more bad than good, then he's like a... you know, a piece of malfunctioning machinery."

  • And Then There Were None: The Poetic Serial Killer U.N. Owen/Justice Wargrave describes himself in the Epilogue Letter as having been a sociopath who craved murder since childhood but also having a moral code that caused him to target only other murderers.
  • Baccano!: Despite his cheerful All-Loving Hero demeanor and selfless behavior, Elmer C. Albatross is completely devoid of empathy and concern for others. He just does what he does because Good Feels Good.
  • Subverted with Hrathen in Elantris, who seems like a religious fanatic at first, but turns out to be one of the more reasonable antagonists and goes through crippling guilt for his actions — he supports his theocratic religion because he believes it is too logical and well-organized to be wrong and turns against it when it stops behaving logically. Played straight with Dilaf, who is such a fanatic and has such a serious case of Fantastic Racism for the Elantrians that he can justify any atrocity.
  • Ambiguously, Peter Wiggin in Ender's Game, whose goal is to Take Over the World and unite it under a hegemony before the Russian-aligned Second Warsaw Pact creates a new conflict after the insectoid alien "buggers" are defeated.
  • In The Expanse, Amos is explicitly described as a sociopathic killer, although this is as a result of trauma he suffered as a child. He uses other, more moral people around him to keep him on the right track, as he's more than willing to just start butchering people who get in his way without someone to keep him in check. In Nemesis Games, after Earth is hit by meteor strikes and he's left without anyone to tell him what to not do, Amos takes extreme measures to stay alive, including seeking out and killing a survivalist so he can loot his bunker. In a few cases, however, we encounter instances of his bizarre moral code, such as his violent objections whenever he encounters someone abusing children, and his sense of moral obligation to those who are part of his self-identified "family", including a willingness to go to war against an entire crime family when they initially refuse to help pay benefits to his adoptive mother's widower. In short: Amos has worked out that a fully-expressed set of murderous behaviours even for immediate survival is a very, very bad longer-term survival strategy to have in space where you kind of need a lot of people on your side just to get air and water, so he tries to keep a small, trusted, cohesive and protected group around him to steer him in less accidentally suicidal directions and help him out of social jams he can't wrap his head around. Everything makes sense when you look at it that way. As for the "liking kids" bit, he knows he's damaged, and when it happened to him: what little empathy he has, he keeps for those who might wind up like him if he doesn't protect them when he actually sees stuff like that happening in front of him. He doesn't always get it right, but he tries. He is also quietly horrified by the idea that anyone would willingly submit to a procedure that strips them of their empathy.
  • Amy Dunne from Gone Girl is a sociopath to the core, with a list of transgressions that includes setting up a former boyfriend for raping her, throwing herself down a flight of stairs and blaming it on a childhood friend for petty reasons, and murdering Desi as well as framing him for kidnapping and raping her to fit her Wounded Gazelle Gambit plot. However, she does genuinely believe in the concept of marriage and all that it details. Nick's neglectful, inconsiderate attitude toward her, as well as him cheating on her with a student of his by using the same routine that he used to win her over, is what pushes her to exact her revenge. She also seems to care about social equality and diverse representation; in her list of things that she did with Nick that made her not use her brain as much as she used to, she says that she watched movies and didn't think about the "lack of women and minorities in meaningful roles".
  • Hannibal Lecter: Lecter's personal ethics are bizarre. Murder, torture, cannibalism, and mutilation are fine, but sexual assault and rudeness are punishable by death. What Lecter considers to be rude behaviour is unclear as he himself insults, ignores, and talks down to people, and murder could be seen as being pretty rude as well. Furthermore, his definition of evil is to defy the rules of society, and he made the deliberate choice to be evil by rejecting societal norms.
  • Bartemius Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter is ruthlessly violent in service of the Evil Sorcerer Voldemort. In the backstory, Barty was at least an accomplice, if not an active participant, in the Cold-Blooded Torture of Neville Longbottom's parents, who were so damaged from the experience that they don't even recognize their son a decade and a half later. At the time of the story, Barty imprisons Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody in a trunk for almost a year, kills his own father, and mind-controls one Triwizard Tournament contestant into torturing another. Yet:
    • His core value is Undying Loyalty to Voldemort. He despises fellow Death Eaters (Voldemort's followers) who disavowed the cause after Voldemort's apparent death, especially those who ratted others out in exchange for amnesty. This could be considered hypocritical, as Barty himself denied involvement in the attack on the Longbottoms and begged not to be imprisoned. On the other hand, he never renounced Voldemort or the Death Eaters, and after smuggling him out of Azkaban, his father had to use mind control to keep him from seeking out his presumed-dead master. So he likely wanted to avoid prison specifically to keep up the fight.
    • He also shows disdain for people who attack when their opponents' backs are turned.
  • In Dan Wells' John Cleaver trilogy (I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don't Want To Kill You), the eponymous protagonist, diagnosed at 15 with conduct disorder (which he calls "just a nice way of telling parents their kids have antisocial personality disorder"), does not want to become a serial killer but recognizes his potential to become one, so he lives by a strict set of rules to prevent himself from Slowly Slipping Into Evil, "practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation". His rules include: Not watching one person for too long (and ignoring them for a whole week if he does) to prevent stalking behaviour; not interacting with animals at all, period (animal cruelty); and giving someone a compliment if they make him so angry he wants to hurt them — he'll do this even to a boy at school who bullies him. John is so dependent on these rules, that in the wake of local serial killings, he wrestles for a week with the idea of breaking a rule to simply follow a suspicious drifter, purely because he's afraid of the slippery slope.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien writes that Sauron of The Lord of the Rings was originally this. Even when he was a good guy, Sauron always liked perfect order. This was not a particularly bad trait for a servant of Aulë, the smith of the Valar. It helps to be an obsessive perfectionist when you're making jewelry, or languages, or helping design the bodies of a species. It was probably in fact Sauron's experience working with Aulë on creating the dwarves that started him thinking about what the perfect way to arrange nature for sentient life. And then Yavanna went and made a chaotic mess (from his point of view) when creating nature. Sauron defects to the Big Bad, but he still very much has benevolent intentions. Then the elves wake up, and well... from Sauron's point of view, they are Smug Supers. Elves only take instructions from people they trust, don't fear death, and are supremely capable of building a perfectly functional society entirely on their own. This annoys both Sauron and his boss Morgoth to no end. Sauron's intentions start to become less benevolent, and he starts to have a sadistic side as a result of his mounting frustrations. However, a small glimpse of this previous Sauron can perhaps be seen in the city he sets up at Tol-en-Gaurhoth. He does seem to genuinely care about the werewolves, who are the primary permanent inhabitants of the city. By the time of The Lord of the Rings though, any hint of benevolent intentions within Sauron has vanished. He has become so bitter, frustrated, and sadistic that he can't remember what it was like to feel for others much less try to convince anyone else that he does. Hence why he cannot take a fair form, as was his custom in the 1st and 2nd Ages. Of course, that is not to say that Sauron couldn't eventually be redeemed: and after everything he has lost, he might just be tired enough to give up, repent and face the judgement of the Valar. Or then again, maybe not.
  • Explored in detail with various characters in The Machineries of Empire:
    • Mikodez really is a sociopath with morality, maintaining an overall good orientation despite his lack of morals because he intellectually thinks that treating other people well is more effective in keeping society stable and avoiding trouble.
    • Jedao really tries to be one, because he thinks it's necessary but is deeply tormented as a result.
    • Kujen deliberately turned himself into a sociopath because he found being a Well-Intentioned Extremist too painful and thought he could continue to achieve good ends, but ended up as just a sociopathic villain because he didn't account for Motive Decay.
  • Aster in Magik Online shows all the signs of being The Sociopath but he has a very twisted moral compass of a Knight Templar, refusing to believe in evil because he believes he can reeducate anyone into a model citizen, ironically showing a belief in good and bad.
  • Zack of The Mental State is practically a textbook definition of this trope. He generally serves as a demonstration of how the darker side of human nature can not only be useful but also essential. Apart from self-preservation, his primary motive throughout the course of the story is to impose his own concept of morality on the prison system. Luckily, he is a big believer in prisoner rights and freedom of choice. His rule is less like a 'dictatorship' and more like a 'dictablanda'.
  • In the Night Watch (Series), the worse members of the Light Ones and the better members of Dark Ones are this.
  • In RCN, Adele Mundy's personal bodyguard is said to be a Sociopathic Soldier who acts moral not because of any personal code, but because of the legal consequences of doing otherwise.
  • Tanya von Degurechaff from The Saga of Tanya the Evil is this combined with Jerkass Has a Point. She does have reasonably firm moral lines and displays significant contempt for those who breach them. She hates war and fighting, considering them a waste of resources, endeavors to always obey the rules, despises laziness, and views Honor Before Reason attitudes as pure selfish pride.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Bronn does his job to the best of his abilities, whatever it might currently entail as part of the agreed package, all while maintaining a professional and personable demeanour to all and sundry where suitable. However, outside the job, he comes firstalways. He seems to find it somewhat disagreeable when people mistreat those he regards as having more worth (or just a load more bad luck) than wider society deems them to have or simply overlooks, but he won't actually step in to act on their behalf unless there is something for him to gain by it. There is very little he is unwilling to do for the right price from the right authority, but the more distasteful (or dangerous) he finds the act, the more money or concessions he'll demand in exchange for doing it. And, if you don't manage to supply sufficient incentive, he'll simply leave. Oh, and don't try insulting him by suggesting he go against his underlying "keep it honest; keep in business" code for simply enough recompense or some suspiciously, nebulously defined social credit: no dice. He'll add trolling you to his general "exist as well as feasible" strategy.
    Tyrion: If someone asked you to kill someone's baby, would you do it, without question?
    Bronn: Without question? No. [beat] I'd ask how much.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Imperial Grand Admiral Mitth'raw'nuruodo can be interpreted this way. Thrawn prizes efficiency over brutality and behaves as A Father to His Men but appears to do so on purely practical terms: he's averse to genocide and randomly murdering subordinates because he considers them wasteful rather than immoral. Thrawn doesn't really appear to actually care about anybody (other than his brother Thrass in Outbound Flight), and when he's foiled, it's often because he failed to consider the possibility that his opponents would take some supremely risky action out of genuine altruism. He also never once appears to consider how he would actually rule the galaxy were he to succeed in reconquering it for the Empire, seeming to want to do so purely for the intellectual challenge of the attempt.
    • Tales of the Bounty Hunters:
      • Dengar has this since after the brain surgery he's suffered to remake him into an Imperial assassin, he no longer feels most emotions (only anger, hope, and loneliness). However, he still recalls what doing good means, and slowly pulls a Heel–Face Turn before somewhat recovering through mind-linking with Manaroo.
      • Probably the best way to describe Daniel Keys Moran's version of Boba Fett is as a Lawful Evil sociopath. He considers extramarital sex and rape to be immoral but also considers running drugs and rebellion to be on the same level, even saying to Leia Organa's face that Alderaan deserved it. At the same time, he has no problem with murder for hire, because bounty hunting is legal, nor did he have a problem murdering somebody he thought deserved it — however, he's disturbed when he accidentally kills Incavi Baker because he was aiming at Han Solo.
  • Sweet Valley High. Elizabeth Wakefield can be like this. In her efforts to punish people for their wrongdoing, she can be as cruel as the person themselves was, but she's always completely oblivious to this.
  • Timeline-191: Boris Lavochkin is a Sociopathic Soldier who will kill anybody who even looks at him funny. He still finds the CSA's Final Solution horrifying and deserving of punishment, meaning that for all his disregard for morality, he has a conception of it.
  • Undefeated Bahamut Chronicle:
    • Prince Fugil Arcadia believes in creating a balanced and peaceful world, but he has no empathy for individual humans (save for Arshalia), to the point where he sees them as objects in a Civ-like game who can be manipulated and sacrificed for The Needs of the Many.
    • Singlen Shelbrit is opposed to corrupt, inefficient governments, and seeks to rule the world to correct society. Like Fugil, he is also unable to form attachments with others and is willing to sacrifice others for these ideals. He may be a bigger example than Fugil, since he never shows attachment to anyone, including his sister.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Burn Notice: Michael Weston is a former CIA agent regarded by many of his colleagues to be one of the best field agents they have, and it shows in his work; he is an expert at emotionally manipulating targets and tricking them into giving him what he wants, whatever that may be. Many of his tactics such as deliberate gaslighting and the ease with which he lies edge into some sociopathic tendencies. He also struggles to relate to his friends and family on an emotional level, his cold calculated approach frequently alienating people he genuinely cares for. These tendencies are further highlighted in a conversation with his mother, in which she reveals that even as a child she could see something dark in him. It worried her so much she forged his father's signature to let him join the military, thinking they would help him forge that darkness into a tool for good. Despite the emotionless deadpan he usually displays, he has strict morals about how he handles situations, what sort of jobs he's willing to take, and he only ever takes a life if absolutely necessary.
  • In Daredevil (2015), FBI Agent Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter is explicitly diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and psychopathic tendencies, but due to the positive influence of his childhood therapist, he has spent most of his life trying to find a person to be his "north star" whose example he can follow in order to be a good person. Unfortunately, he decides that the best way to do so is by obsessively stalking a former coworker, and then Wilson Fisk manages to get his claws into him and the "moral" part goes out the window.
  • This is the whole point of Dexter. The title character is a psychopathic serial killer who had a moral code instilled in him by his foster father, who in turn did so after confiding in a psychiatrist who pioneered research into psychopaths. While his code prevents him from killing innocents, its main purpose is to prevent him from getting caught.
  • The Rani, from Doctor Who and its extended universe. Unlike another former classmate of the Doctor's turned Time Lord renegade, the Master, the Rani dislikes needless violence and exercising power over others for its own sake. She'll even help people who are in danger when it doesn't benefit her. She genuinely sees herself as working toward scientific knowledge and at one point thinks an entire planet she's been experimenting on will benefit in the long term from her actions. It's just that her quest for knowledge tends to benefit her while inflicting tremendous suffering on beings she considers lesser species (which, naturally, would be any species that isn't Gallifreyan). Nor does she really understand the Doctor's ethics. In the Big Finish audio The Rani Elite, when the Doctor is angry that she kills a man who is trapped in a decaying body as a direct result of her experiments, she's genuinely taken aback that the Doctor isn't instead praising her for her compassion.
  • Patrick Jane from The Mentalist once pretends to have become an example of this trope. To trick a killer into a revealing admission, he pretends that an experimental device has switched off his conscience and threatens to shoot a group of suspects on the grounds that it's his job to identify criminals and they aren't cooperating.
  • Person of Interest: Sameen Shaw is a textbook sociopath who is on the right side. She was originally an extremely talented surgeon since she didn't have all those messy emotions that got in the way of work for everybody else. However, her horrific bedside manner led to her superiors strongly encouraging her to find another job, so she became a government black ops agent. She did a great job at that until she stumbled onto a secret miles above her pay grade, and her partner was killed for it. Shaw killed her boss (the guy who ordered the hit), but pointedly left everyone else in the organization alive because she knew they were doing good work. Then she joined Team Machine, a group of Small Steps Heroes who do the exact same job she was doing for the government, just on a smaller scale. While she finds some of their rules such as avoiding killing to be naïve, she does follow them when possible and proves to be an extremely valuable asset. Even her former black ops bosses, who know that they should really kill her for knowing too much, acknowledge that she's better off where she is.
  • Sherlock: If we are to take him at his word, Sherlock Holmes is a more-or-less-heroic example of this trope. (He says that he's a "high-functioning sociopath", not a psychopath.) He solves difficult crimes for the intellectual challenge rather than any particular desire to right wrongs or help people. On the other hand, he feels a deep kinship with any of those who don't "fit" into society at large. That is, he tends to treat them like he does his brother Mycroft: constant needling in their day-to-day lives, mostly out of boredom. He's an outright brutal bastard to anyone who preys upon them.
    Watson: There are lives at stake, Sherlock! Actual human lives — ju-just so I know, do you care about that at all?
    Sherlock: Will caring about them help save them?
    Watson: [angrily] Nope!
    Sherlock: Then I'll continue not to make that mistake.
  • Supernatural: After his soul is eaten by Amara, Donatello Redfield freely admits to being "empty" inside, but has no particular inclination to do evil. He keeps himself on the straight and narrow so he can still operate in society by asking himself, "what would Mister Rogers do?"
  • The Wire: Omar Little robs drug dealers and kills when he has too. He feels no guilt about his actions, as he strictly focuses on people involved in 'The Game': civilians are off-limits. However, if the effects harm people he cares about, it does upset him, but it does not stop him from doing what he does.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • "John Doe" from Batman: The Telltale Series is more a Psychopathic Manchild than a true sociopath, but the two things he views as genuinely wrong are betraying a friend and being rude. Of all the things you can do to him, the one thing that seems to genuinely cross him is "rudely" putting a tracking device on him.
  • BioShock 2: Sofia Lamb is a curious case in that she probably did not begin as this, being originally driven by her altruistic goals (though she was arguably enamored with the concept rather than the people themselves). However, by the time of the game, she has become a Totalitarian Utilitarian obsessed with removing individuality and curing humanity's genetic fatalism.
  • Nil from Horizon Zero Dawn loves killing, and was formerly a soldier of The Empire, which he had no particular problem with. He was jailed after the fall of the regime (which he thinks is fair enough), and when he emerged decided that killing citizens of established tribes wasn't worth the ire it raised. Thus, Aloy can find him scouting various bandit camps.
  • The Reapers of the Mass Effect series turn out to be this. Yes, they come in every 50,000 years and eradicate all the technologically advanced species and convert them into raw material for a new Reaper, but they do it so the galaxy won't descend into an endless war of organics vs. synthetics, and besides, the civilizations they harvest live on within the minds of the Reapers. Thus, they rationalize genocide as being part of the "greater good", and ultimately what's best for everyone.
    The Rannoch Reaper: You represent chaos, we represent order. Every organic civilization must be harvested in order to bring order to chaos. It is inevitable. Without our intervention, organics are doomed. We are your salvation.
  • Kronika from Mortal Kombat 11 truly believes that she is doing the right thing. However, the method she does everything is so sociopathic that it ends up making her look even worse. She says that it is important to maintain the Balance Between Good and Evil, but what she wants is Forever War which will result in so much suffering for many people. She attempts to remove free will from the people of the timeline so she can have what she believes is the perfect timeline for everyone involved. Her arrogance prevents her from allowing any result that doesn't have her desired outcome.
  • Persona 4's resident Serial Killer, Adachi, evolves into this after his defeat. By Persona 4: Arena Ultimax he's still a sociopathic asshole, but he's decided that he's going to pay for his crimes, and if he were to be released from prison because somebody else started killing people in the same manner, it would violate the rules he's decided for himself. He also slightly cares for Yu and Doujima, but good luck getting him to admit that.
  • Physical Exorcism Series: Despite their Lack of Empathy towards others and their need for stimulation, Brucie and Jade make an effort to treat their clients with good faith. In the true ending of ''Case 01'', Brucie gives Lucy a discount for the exorcism fee because he failed to save Sapphire from going insane. Brucie also has an odd fixation with moral consistency, since he disagrees with how meat-eating people can eat some animals, but not others.
  • Racter from Shadowrun Returns: Hong Kong is a clinical sociopath but learned from a young age that it was in his rational self-interest to pretend to adhere to 'normal' human morality even if he feels no emotional connection to it. He understands things such as friendships on an intellectual level and will consider the Player Character one if you continue to engage him in interesting talks without blowing him off. He also has a near-religious interest in transhumanism and therefore feels moral outrage (or the closest he can get to it) about people who jeopardize the future of the human race's evolution for personal gain, like two of his former research companions did when they stole his experimental drone data and sold it to ARES in return for employment. Aside from this, he views his sociopathy as the next stage of human evolution, as it's later revealed that his lower half is entirely mechanical, and he attributes his ability to successfully integrate the parts to his sociopathy, as he should have been basically zombified with that implant.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Chairman Yang, the leader of the Human Hive, disregards the individual in pursuit of a totalitarian collectivism because he believes that unfettered self-interest is ultimately harmful to the cause of human progress.
  • Soma Spirits: Form believes that joyful emotions are the only things that are needed to live a fulfilling life while Dissonance believes that sorrowful emotions are needed to live an orderly life. Each believes that the opposite emotions will lead to tragedy and conflict and that the two sets of emotions cannot coexist. However, they care more about the concepts of these emotions than the people of the world who experience these emotions. Their obsession with their moral codes is taken so far that they dehumanize anyone who has undesirable emotions, which is why Form and Dissonance seek to wipe out the populations of Worlds of Sorrow and Joy (respectively) for representing the emotions they don't like, and they shamelessly deceive and manipulate Heart and Soul to achieve these goals. When the two worlds are fused, Form and Dissonance deem everyone to be deserving of death for failing their standards, showing that for all their self-righteousness, the self-serving way that they interpret their morals ultimately prevents them from having any goodwill towards others.
  • Jade Curtiss in Tales of the Abyss is a heroic version. He has no empathy whatsoever, but is troubled by this, and always tries to do the right thing even though his concept of right and wrong can be a little skewed. Far, far less so in his backstory, where he was a Creepy Child.
  • Undertale: Flowey the Flower used to be this. He states that he spent many timelines being the Underground's savior, but unfortunately got bored with that and started doing everything, good and evil.
  • Big Bad Prince Maximilian from Valkyria Chronicles is a classic sociopath in many ways (shallow effect, relating to others only in terms of their worth to him, It's All About Me mentality), but he possesses a very strong code of ethics that often makes him very sympathetic. He's one of the least racist people in a game where even the good guys display strong prejudice, abhors disloyalty, executes his own men for war crimes, and rescued a young Selvaria from the laboratory where she had been imprisoned (mostly because he knew it would ensure her loyalty, but still).

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night: Priest Kirei Kotomine's religious beliefs and personal circumstances make him state firmly that there's no sin in an unborn baby and that everyone has the right to be born. He is willing to put his life on the line and sacrifice everything without blinking an eye to witness a certain baby's birth. What makes it a case of Blue-and-Orange Morality is that he will literally sacrifice everything, including humanity, for Angra Mainyu, "the baby" that is an omnicidal Sealed Evil in a Can. Of course, he turns out to be an actual sociopath trying desperately to ape normal morals, so he doesn't actually get why people would be a little more nuanced about this than he is. He's also desperately trying to justify his own existence; he was born without the ability to feel joy from anything except other people's pain while fully knowing just how twisted that was. He wants to believe that everyone, no matter how twisted their nature, deserves to be born because to believe otherwise would be to condemn himself.

  • Freefall: Doctor Bowman, thanks to faulty, uneven uplifting combined with a very poor choice of species, is a violent, overly impulsive psychopath who is very aware that he is one. He had to build his own moral code from scratch and take extreme measures to make sure he could stick to it and minimize chances to break it; he outright warns Florence to not look him in the eye or touch him because he can't help reacting badly to it, and chats with her in an environment where he's likely to take out his rage on a punching dummy instead of her. When left alone to work with his thoughts in peace, and dealt with on his terms, he's utterly reasonable and an actual force of good with his scientific developments, but he's still aware he could kill someone if approached the wrong way.
  • Kore from Goblins does sincerely believe he is doing the right thing by mercilessly slaughtering everyone that has been in contact with "evil races", even children of his own species that were with said "evil races". His utter conviction that he is doing good is probably what allows him to keep his paladin powers. This is either due to a house rule that lets paladins be this without falling, or just Herbert the Gamemaster being out of it or sadistic — or both. It's eventually revealed that Kore takes the souls of those he kills and becomes connected to those souls' alignments, effectively making him every single alignment at once for the purposes of the world's DnD 3.5 mechanics. In other words, he is still "Lawful Good" because many of those he's killed are Lawful Good. This probably makes it quite natural for him to be such a Tautological Templar.
  • In Strong Female Protagonist, after Patrick ran away from home, he partitioned away many emotions that he felt would be detrimental to his survival on the streets, such as fear, and the need for love and affection.
    "While I felt the betrayal of my mother, I could not compel myself to leave the truck stops and alleyways. But then I made a barrier, and put my need for love behind it. And when I got rid of my need for love, the lack of it didn't sting so bad. And when that stinging stopped, I was able to get to work."

    Web Originals 
  • Gold Tongues has Stix, a kleptomaniac who spends his time stealing from others for his own selfish reasons. Nevertheless, he doesn't kill people unless he absolutely has to, and he finds rape to be deplorable and tasteless. It's because of this that he ends up mortally shooting Petrol and abandoning Buzz — the former is a sadistic child rapist, and the latter murdered a defenseless mutant on a mere impulse.