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Dave Grossman is fascinated by the individual’s ability to take another life. Or lack thereof. The retired Lieutenant Colonel’s book On Combat divides citizens into three main groups: those oblivious to the danger of violence, the predators who attack them, and the citizens prepared to counter predation. Click here to read his now famous chapter “On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs.” So, which one are you? Or is that an obvious question . . .

Risk of Being a Victim

Despite the gun slinger mystique projected upon us by gun control advocates, most concealed carry license holders view a firearm as the last thing they’d want to use in a defensive situation. They’ve made the decision to carry our weapon “just in case.” And yet very few of us have been or ever will be the victim of violent crime. Grossman appreciates the paradox.

We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

Unlike many dismissive gun gurus, Grossman doesn’t call the vast majority of society sheep pejoratively. He understands the value of citizens who respect the law to the point where they’re oblivious to its transgressors. Sheep are productive members of society whose very existence helps maintain social stability.

In short, Grossman doesn’t criticize the decision to live life as a sheep. Much.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love.

According to Grossman, if you decide to live life as a sheep, you’re living in denial.

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn’t bring your gun, you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear, helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.

As described above, society also contains wolves. People who do not respect the law. The view it with distant derision. They have no compunctions about harming other to achieve their inherently selfish desires and unrestrained impulses. Some percentage of the sheep, however small, are susceptible to these wolves’ violence. Grossman asks,

Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

Defining Yourself

Assuming you drive a car, you’ve accepted the risk of an accident whenever you pull out of your driveway. You purchase insurance to protects you against the exorbitant costs of repairs or treatment. Having car insurance does not make you a “car loon” or paranoid. You’re not “looking for an accident” or “an accident waiting to happen.” Your policy is a normal part of risk management. Many states require it.

Are citizens who carry self-defense guns really that different? Yes and no. On one hand, the number of law-abiding citizens who carry a gun in America is statistically insignificant. Even in the most gun-o-centric states, the percentage of people with concealed carry weapons licenses who actually carry never crests single digits. In some states, it’s as low as one percent.

Other than a decision to engage in wolf risk management, what sets us apart? Are those of us who choose to arm ourselves violent people? Grossman says yes/no . . .

But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

From his keyboard to God’s ears. Theoretical invincibility aside, “sheepdogs” don’t want to be violent. They simply realize that there may be a time when they need to “flip the switch” from passive to aggressive. They’re ready, willing and able to respond to wolves with speed, surprise, and violence of action—until there is no longer a threat to their lives or to the lives of others.

Grossman understands that this sheepdog-i-tude comes at a personal cost.

But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

Some people are profoundly opposed to the idea of citizen sheepdogs. They believe that sheepdogs are inherently susceptible to rabies; they’ll go mad, cross the line and become wolves. If it happens once, they shout “aha!” and call for all sheepdogs to be muzzled and de-clawed. They believe sheepdogs should be selected, trained and controlled by the state.

There’s considerable evidence that society’s division into sheep, wolves and sheepdogs is both evolutionary and genetic. Some people become sheepdogs after a traumatic incident, but most concealed carry weapons license holders are literally born to the job. They like it because they’re good at it. They’re good at it because they like it.

The environment plays a central role in determining the mix. As America is a relatively safe country, the need for sheepdogs is correspondingly low. If crime—or the fear of crime—rises, the number of sheepdogs will increase. But any suggestion that society can render the citizen sheepdog’s role irrelevant is deeply misguided.

As Grossman says, evil will always be out there, somewhere. As any biologist will tell you, the relative number of white blood cells does not reflect their importance.

On Being a Sheepdog

Grossman cautions that no one can—or should—be constantly “on guard.” But he also urges sheepdogs to embrace their inner canine.

No one can be “on” 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself…“Baa.”

If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re a sheepdog. A larger percentage of our readers carry than the general population. If you’ve made the decision to carry, CARRY. Practice. The life you save may be your own. Or your loved ones. Or innocent bystanders. Or society itself.

52 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Be A Sheepdog

  1. That book is the most dog eared and highlighted one I own. My head instructor at the academy suggested we read it and it was great advice.

  2. I have always enjoyed the ‘Sheepdog’ concept since I was exposed to it a few years ago. I think I had a strong sense of what it meant to be a Sheepdog before I ever heard that term used to describe the concept. As much as I enjoy reading TTAG daily, it’s odd this comes up here because a lot of commentary on TTAG does not support the Sheepdog mentality/role. Rather there is a common message that the Sheep should go armed for self-preservation and not to get involved. …and there is nothing wrong with self-preservation and protection of our families. But seems to me that many TTAG articles do not advocate the Sheepdog in the truest sense.

    Grossman specifically says, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”

    I think the articles on the pitfalls of getting involved in any violent action are great. “STFU” is definitely a mantra to live by. That being said, the Sheepdog mentality implies those risks are accepted and that the goal of protecting the flock is more important than the risk to the individual Sheepdog. I’m probably not arguing my position very well but I hope the point is made.

    I know opinions vary on ‘NutnFancy’ on YouTube, but his video on “The Sheepdog Concept” is worth spending a few minutes to watch if you believe in the Sheepdog philosophy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW8BZ7pRt28&feature=relmfu

    • Grossman specifically says, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”

      Grossman also talks about a time he was in a convenience store and someone held it up, sticking a gun in his face if I remember correctly. Could he have taken the guy out? Yes. Did he? No. Because he knew the safest thing for everyone in the store was to let the guy get the money from the register and leave. It’s a perfect example of a potentially deadly encounter where everyone got out safely. While there is a time and a place to get involved if you see wrongs being committed against another human being, I don’t think that avoidance in certain scenarios necessarily precludes you from the sheepdog mentality.

      • I completely agree. My comment was merely pointing out that the typical message here on TTAG is to not be the Sheepdog. The message I most read here is, ‘Do not get involved at all cost, protect yourself/family’, etc. …which is also sound advice. Each reader will carry something different away from these articles. After all, we sort of Armchair Warriors for reading these types of blogs.

        There are simply too many variables in any given situation to know the outcome. We all rely on some set of tools that we will use to determine our next course of action in a given situation. Avoidance is certainly an option and likely the most preferable choice. But avoidance does not guarantee survival. LtCol. Grossman made a calculated risk by allowing that robbery to proceed. It could have just as easily have gone the other way. Misreading the bad guys intentions he could have been the first victim or he could have acted and it would likely have been in self-defense, not in defense of others. Fortunately for everyone, that situation resolved without any loss of life.

        The Sheepdog philosophy is always a good discussion because it varies from person to person. Mentally role playing these scenarios is, IMHO, a critical part to the Sheepdog mentality.

  3. Too bad they don’t ship it here. Ow, well…
    BTW, why sheepdog? Shepherd refers to specific type of dogs or what?

  4. I’m torn on the Sheepdog bit. For the past 21 years I’ve been a Soldier and will accept that being ready to deploy to confront the “wolf” threatening the US counts as being a sheepdog. However, in my personal life, I carry to protect me and mine. Perhaps if I actually saw an attempt at a rape I would intervene. For anything else, chances are getting involved isn’t happening. I consider myself more the cranky old badger, willing and able to fight off the wolf if messed with but otherwise minding my own business. If carrying among the sheep makes me a sheepdog so be it but it is not a title I claim for myself.

      • I’m an armed ram. I’m not trained or authorized to protect the herd, just my ewe and lambs. I am not a sheepdog.

        OTOH, the analogy is flawed because in real life the sheepdogs don’t protect the flock. They only hunt down the predators after they have killed their prey. They can’t and generally don’t prevent predation.

        I don’t like the sheepdog analogy because it either reinforces the myth that concealed carriers are vigilantes (sheepdog=armed citizen) or that the police will protect you (sheepdog=police).

  5. you don’t have a choice in this . Its in your nature or it isn’t . you are a sheepdog if you are on this site.

  6. I think this is one of the most cliche, and overused analogies in the gun world. If you have ever taken your kids or a group of kids to a place where you can’t have a gun, been out with the gals/guys for drinks and there was a designated driver who was not you, and a myriad of other situations then you’ve adopted the role of sheep according to the above doctrine.

    Severe’s thoughts are on topic here. Almost all ethical trainers caution not to involve yourself in the affairs of others and particularly if you don’t know the full context of what’s going on. We all read about undercover Police who are killed by misidentification, and that’s an even more real threat to a CCW.

    Why the fixation on likening yourself (generally) to an animal?

  7. Not me. I’m not a sheep, a sheepdog, or a wolf. You can’t take moral guidance from animals because animals don’t have morals. They have no conception of right and wrong and no use for one. A sheepdog is not more noble or moral in principle than a wolf. That’s stupid. They’re both carnivores who kill to eat and survive. Whoever thought up the sheepdog analogy must have grown up on Warner Bros. and Walt Disney.

    If you want to live morally as a human being, you will need a coherent moral philosophy. A sheepdog doesn’t have any moral philosophy. If you don’t feed your sheepdog, your sheep inventory will start shrinking one unit at a time. Also, don’t let your sheepdog anywhere near the chicken houses. It can kill hundreds of them in minutes. Sort of amazing, really — chicken holocaust. Chicken armageddon.

    • Call it whatever you will. The point is that rather than be in the group of defenseless victims, we’re in the group of responsible citizens (with some kind of moral standard) who will valiantly defend ourselves or our own (wife, husband, kids, what have you) with whatever it is we choose (pen, knife, gun, bat, chainsaw, whatever).

      • If you say so, but you will need something other than a sheep/wolf/sheepdog analogy to describe your ideas in concrete form. Any moral values in sheepdogs have been projected onto them by humans. Anthropomorphism, it’s called.

        That said, I can see how the sheepdog iconography makes great fappin’ material for gun loons. That makes perfect sense to me. I’m sure the merchandising potential is awesome.

        • Magoo,

          You have heard of analogy yes? An analogy does not have to be 100% exact, it just needs to get across a point in a more concise manner. I don’t think I am actually an animal when I put on my concealed carry weapon, or howl to channel my inner sheepdog whenever I think trouble is arising.

          This is just another way to indicate that there are victims, there are victimizers, and there are those that refuse to be a victim (and or refuse to allow those around them to be victims).

          I don’t think you would have as much trouble with this analogy if it supported your beliefs about “reasonable restrictions” rather than firearm carry and a self defense (and or defense of others) mindset.

          Ps, if you had read the original you would have seen this distinction and many other
          “…In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be….”

    • Oh come on Magoo, when did you become so literal? Orwell said nothing to you in Animal Farm? There was no moral value to the fables of Aesop? Hell, I’ll even defend Warner Bros. and Disney on this front. Anthropomorphism as a teaching vehicle for morality has a long, successful history.

      While I am not totally on-board with the whole sheepdog/warrior/hero thing, what Colonel Grossman is saying is clear as day. And your “animals don’t have morals” argument is as near-sighted as you name sake

    • “They’re both carnivores who kill to eat and survive.”

      Guess you must be a vegan. How noble of you.

      • I am an omnivore who kills to eat and survive (in the literal sense). I kill plants and animals and that makes me… morally corrupt???

  8. I protect my sheep, expecting that the wolves will move on to easier prey — like someone else’s sheep. They’re on their own. Nobody ever said that life is easy.

  9. “We may well be in the most violent times in history”

    Did that come from the book? Any measure against any time period in the history of mankind will easily show that the past decade or so has been remarkably harmonious. Yes times are a little “tough” these days, but historically we have been savages compared to our recent history since 1970 or so.

  10. Terry4Strokes says: “Oh come on Magoo, when did you become so literal? Orwell said nothing to you in Animal Farm? There was no moral value to the fables of Aesop? Hell, I’ll even defend Warner Bros. and Disney on this front. Anthropomorphism as a teaching vehicle for morality has a long, successful history.”

    You are totally missing the point. A sheepdog has no moral values or traits. If you think you see any, you are only making them up in your head. It’s entirely fiction. That’s exactly why I cited Disney and Warner Bros. In order for a sheepdog to be able to “teach” us anything about morals, first we have to make up a bunch of morals and then fictionally attribute them to the sheepdog. Animals don’t have morals.

    • Definition of ANTHROPOMORPHISM
      : an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics

      From Merriam-Webster online.

        • “You used to be funny but now you are just a bore.”

          And you have never been anything but a bore.

          Shouldn’t you be out yelling at kids to get off your lawn, or hunting down an earlybird special at a diner? Surely an old man such as yourself has better things to do with his time than harass whippersnappers.

        • Nicely done. He really is a boring crank, don’t you think. I wonder what he’s like in real life.

  11. While I’d love to think that our rescued Golden Retriever holds certain values and standards, as well as contributes to the family dynamic the reality is that she’s here because of the food, shelter and companionship. All of which she can easily get from other humans, or canines. And she will, if given the opportunity. There are 100’s of years of evolutionary development in those all too familiar facial expressions dogs use to play on the emotions of humans, and we fall for it most of the time. Hook, line & sinker. Now it’s not that she’s a complete opportunist. While she’s out & about she does a good job of frightening the all-too-bold squirrel population that decimates my garden every year, she dutifully alerts us when strangers arrive & gets the paper for us. But… Would she stick around if we could no longer afford to feed her? She’s been known to swipe food right off of an unsuspecting victim’s dinner / dessert plate. I’d bet money if the neighbors dogs had it better she would bolt.

    Also, what of the “oppressors” who categorize themselves as ‘sheepdogs’? You know the ones; the “I’m just following orders, I’m a gun owner myself” “professional” law enforcer. Are they the sheepdogs of which we speak while they’re rifling through your vehicle on the side of the road? Or at your house rifling your safe because the s/n on one of your guns is on the wrong database?

    • Those are “wolves” in “sheepdog” clothing. We just have to figure out how to remove the facade so all the “sheep” will recognize them for what they really are… and then let “sheepdogs” work.

  12. Ralph is right on target as usual. I’m not trying to put down sheepdogs, but I’d rather be a doberman. They’re loyal and they will do anything to protect you and your family. My dogs have always known right from wrong, and I don’t see why a dog can’t have morals. I’ve owned several dogs with more morals than many humans.

  13. Self-defense tip: Don’t be a sheepdog. Being a sheepdog is a good way to get mauled by a wolf, which unlike the sheepdog, kills to eat.

    The “sheepdog” crowd wants to help. Let’s say you see a rape attempt – the most common case the sheepdogs cite. Let’s make the hypothetical situation as sympathetic as possible. The rapist is a huge, old, ugly, hairy guy with big tats, rotten teeth and dirty clothes. The victim is a pretty young thing with beautiful flowing hair and immaculately dressed. Let’s say she locks eyes on you, and she says “Help me, O Knight in Shining Armor!”

    So. Do you help? You’re not legally obligated to help. You can’t go to jail for walking away. If you intervene, it’s not self-defense. You could try to stop the rapist. You could kill him, and let the law decide if it was murder. It could go horribly wrong, and both the victim and yourself could end up dead. Either way, you’re better off walking away. But should you help? Most people, including myself, would have a hard time doing nothing in a situation like that. But if you do intervene, understand you’re taking a big risk, so make that choice carefully.

    You aren’t an officer of the law. You aren’t accountable to an elected authority, nor have you been given an obligation or responsibility to respond in situation. If you choose to take action in a situation, you do so entirely of your own will, and bear all consequences for your actions. In short, nobody asked you to help, what you think is help may not be helping at all, and don’t expect any gratitude if you do help. Expect a grand jury hearing.

    Maybe a better analogy is to be a “fanged sheep”. You protect yourself and yours. You don’t go looking for trouble. You run away at the sight of a wolf. But if a wolf is pouncing on you, you can whirl around and bite back. Self-defense is self-defense. Intervening in a crime-in-progress that doesn’t involve you is not self-defense.

    Be a sheepdog? It might be the moral thing to do, but it’s not a good self-defense strategy. Police are paid to be sheepdogs, and, more importantly, are chosen by the people to be sheepdogs, subject to regulation by laws and institutions.

    • The only reason there is a risk from the “law” is because the “wolves” in “sheepdog” clothing want to maintain their monopoly on the use of force. “…not given an obligation or responsibility”? How about the responsibility to act in a decent and moral manner given to us by God? If one is witness to an attempted rape, you do have the responsibility to act out of basic human decency. “Intervening in a crime-in-progress that doesn’t involve you is not self-defense.” Complete BS. By that rationale, you could not interven if it was your own wife or child being attacked, but not you. Defense of others is a legitimate, lawful, and universally recognized action, codified within the scope of “self-defense.” The question of whether or not it is smart to intervene is a different topic… but there is absolutely nothing morally wrong with intervening, while there may be a grave sin of omission by not helping. Either way, we should act morally regardless of what man’s “law” says.

  14. Aaron Jossie says: “If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re a sheepdog. A larger percentage of our readers carry than the general population. If you’ve made the decision to carry, CARRY. Practice. The life you save may be your own. Or your loved ones. Or innocent bystanders. Or society itself.”

    I am not a “sheepdog.” You are not a “sheepdog.” It’s a fantasy role-playing game. You are not a British secret agent or in the French underground, either. Sheepdog is a game designed to make your life seem more exciting and dangerous and important than it is.

    Your chances of ever needing your gun to defend yourself are beyond remote, a mathematical curiosity, essentially. It’s great to be prepared, but don’t build your life around it. When you are not being a “sheepdog,” what are you? Insurance salesman? School teacher? IT manager? That’s super. Have fun, don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

  15. Sheep dogs are OK, until a pack of wolves shows up.

    The 4th option is to embrace your inner werewolf. There isn’t a pack of wolves on the planet that wants one or two of those after them. True, you must become the monster for a time but you will never ever be bothered again when it’s over.

    You see, the reason we have wolf packs killing sheep is because there are lawyers and judges and a criminal “justice” system that make a bunch of money by propping up the system they have so assiduously created. They will always tell you, to let them handle it but then, they don’t and the problem is that wolves and wolf packs are raised, over time. They are allowed to exist. Encouraged to exist. Because they benefit those, who are not victimized by their existence. It is intentional and no one will ever admit it because to do so, would be to admit that they themselves have become predators, wolves, using sheep against other sheep and against the sheep dogs all the while, creating more sheep which they or their brethren get to eat.

    What was that old line about two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner?

    The barnyard and pasture is where predators come to eat. Yet there are some barnyards and pastures where they do not go but would very much like to.

    • We are not wolves or werewolves. We are middle-class Americans living lives of comfort and safety. The chief dangers in our lives are not criminals or predators. They are obesity and heart disease.

      • “The chief dangers in our lives are not criminals or predators.”

        John R. Lott Jr.’s “More Guns, Less Crime” is a good read. The presence of legally armed citizens arguably suppresses violent crime. It’s like ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ even for the gun antagonistic.

  16. Despite the fact that Magoo is boring me to death, I’d like to weigh in here. I’ve always liked the Sheep Dog analogy and disagree completely with Magoo’s ludicrous assertion that animals, like dogs, can’t have values; the fact is that they do and anyone who has worked with a dog knows this to be true. The canines in combat often try to save their handler, ditto for police dogs. Sheep dogs protect the flock to the best of their ability, even if it costs them their lives.

    The analogy I don’t like is the wolf as heartless predator. The fact is that wolves are family oriented hunters who kill to survive just like big cats. The simple fact is that human predators completely lack that which makes most people human. They kill without remorse. Often without reason or a clear objective such as the two cretins in Connecticut.

    Sheep dogs carry to protect their flock and self; end of story. If I can help, I will but my first priority is my flock period.

    Lastly, Magoo, please go somewhere else; most of us are not impressed and dismiss your blather out of hand.

    Paul

    • You’ve totally lost the point. It’s not that animals can’t do good acts. Of course they can. The point is they don’t know they are doing good, having no conception of good and evil. Sheepdogs aren’t good and wolves aren’t evil. Somebody made that up.

      It’s hardly surprising that people would enjoy the sheepdog concept. Who doesn’t enjoy assigning himself with vaguely heroic attributes?

      • Magoo,

        Your point is absurd. Any time a dog, or other animal, acts against their own interests they recognize the common good. They perform good acts precisely because they recognize them as good; otherwise they wouldn’t do them. Hope this isn’t too “simple” for your oversized brain.

        Paul

      • It’s not the least bit absurd. It’s an ancient concept: In Genesis man and woman ate from the tree of knowledge, becoming aware of good and evil for the first time. Animals remained innocent of this knowledge.

        In modern animal behavior, we do not assert that wolves and other predators are “evil” because they hunt to live. That is nonsense that renders the concepts of good and evil meaningless. These animals hunt to live. If they are evil, life itself is evil. It is ridiculous to assert that sheepdogs are good and wolves are evil, which is the entire basis of the “sheepdog concept.”

        You are off on another tangent about affection and loyalty in animals. Great, fine, whatever, but it has nothing to do with this subject. You are going three blocks out of your way just to argue, when we could be having an actual conversation.

        • Magoo,

          It is an analogy that most people can understand, and simplifies the concept.

          As all analogies it is not meant to be exact. Grossman flat out states that men are not actually dogs, wolves, or sheep, but it is a description of the mentality that most would understand.

          As to your genesis argument and man’s knowledge of good and evil…that only flies when arguing with those in the Judeo Christian faiths.

          Maybe you should think about a biology, psychology, or sociology based argument if you want to be taken seriously…though for most here I’m sure the take Magoo seriously boat has long since sailed

        • It’s a hopeless cause.

          You can’t argue with a bible-thumper; they can always find some vague passage in the bible that they can shoehorn into a justification for their words and deeds.

  17. I’m no bible thumper. I’m somewhere between atheist and agnostic. I’m only referring to an ancient concept, one nearly as old as the written word: that humans are capable of distinguishing right from wrong, while animals are not.

    The family dog can assassinate the family rabbit with no knowledge that it is doing wrong. It’s part of the dog’s essential nature to kill rabbits. To a dog, killing rabbits is neither good nor evil.

    For a legal example of the same concept, note that children and the mentally infirm are not expected to know right from wrong. In fact, the ability to distinguish right and wrong is part of the definition of mental competence.

    And you guys want to take your guidance on right and wrong from an animal that has no knowledge of right and wrong. It’s pretty comical, you have to admit.

    • Magoo,

      You know it’s not about taking moral guidance from an animal. I already pointed out that Grossman acknowledged that we are not actually sheepdogs and provided the convenient quote if you did not feel like spending the time and effort to actually read what you were critiquing. I think further the imagery the analogy evokes is striking enough that it makes it worthwhile (an animal that has undergone breeding and training to undertake one never ending task of protection requiring constant vigilance… as an analogy it just flat out works, and I would be hard pressed to find one that works better)

      As to the rest of your argument first, I would argue that animals can actually be taught morals, in the sense they can be conditioned to do or not do things which may be contrary to their nature (what else is morals but controlling your baser instincts to model a more “acceptable” behavior….that hopefully will be rewarded). I would also argue that this is not entirely different from the human conception of morality in that our society, culture, tribe, family unit, etc. define what is right or wrong, and condition us to act within those bounds. I think that your addition that children and the mentally infirm are not cognisant enough to disconnect their instincts from their actions (aka moral behavior) only strengthens that point.

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