@Quoriana Does it matter whether #Breivik is insane or just plain evil. This piece questions why the focus on this question.
I sympathise with the question. And having lived and worked in Norway for several years, I sympathise with the Norwegian mentality too. I know why this is an interesting question for my rationality agenda, but I agree it’s a moot point in terms of actual behaviour and practical outcomes in the case. (I don’t know anything about “World Mathaba” so I’m commenting here rather than register to comment there.)
Insane or evil, a guilty verdict declares his behaviour unacceptable to society, and whatever the technicalities of the sentence (I would hope) either ensures his separation from society for life. In that sense any future similar behaviour, for either reason, is marked as unacceptable.
The reason it matters is to do with justification and causes – rationalisation – of similar behaviours, and freedoms to hold and express those causes, not just act out behaviours based on those causes. Like it or not, and the Bin Laden case cited is a good example, most terrorist behaviour arises from some cause perceived as legitimate by more than the perpetrator. The terrorist action and the active promotion of such action is criminal even if the original perceived injustice has a valid historical basis. The difference between Gandhi and Bin Laden – passive protest vs active terrorism. Even active criminal terrorists associated with valid causes (but with sane outcomes) become socially re-habilitated – Neslon Mandela, Gerry Adams, Martin McGinnis, Che Guevara.
Breivik is insane for clear reasons. His rationalization of conspiracy theories concerning European Islamification as some grievance against himself and “his people”; his rationalization of his own views and actions as some “Templar” organized conspiracy as a fight against it; his continued inhuman rationalization of his actions justified by the above conspiracies, not just to “psyche himself up” to engage in the initial atrocity (common say amongst suicide terrorists), but to continue it consciously through the entire event and through his defence thereafter. Total rational insanity. To be that rational is inhuman, humanly insane. Anyone using freedom of expression to support similar arguments in future should also be declared insane, before such acts are committed. That’s why it matters.