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Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?

Posted by Ponderer 
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 05:39AM
Quote
Ponderer
Curt, this is simply flabbergasting. I can't believe you don't get this.

Empathy is not about actually knowing exactly what a person is thinking and/or feeling like being able to read their mind. I not only don't give a flying rat's ass if it's impossible to do that, I AGREE that it's impossible. That is absolutely and totally irrelevant to being able to feel empathy with/for someone or some people by imagining what it must be like to be in their situation, by imagining yourself in their place and imagining what your thoughts and feelings would be if you were experiencing the same thing or things they are.

Are you now going to declare that there's no such thing as imagining because what one imagines won't be totally 100% accurate?

I certainly don't doubt that you can and probably do imagine all that. I question the second part of the definition in which you experience "all the sensations" of the other unfortunate person.

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The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position. [dictionary.reference.com]

Quote

1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this [www.merriam-webster.com]






Trump is unintentionally sabotaging his own and Republican candidates' campaigns.





Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/17/2015 05:43AM by Curt Anderson.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 05:53AM
I question the second part of the definition in which you experience "all the sensations" of the other unfortunate person. - Curt

So do Ponderer and I.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 06:00AM
Quote
Hornswoggle
I question the second part of the definition in which you experience "all the sensations" of the other unfortunate person. - Curt

So do Ponderer and I.

So you two are coming around to my point of view. Good. In other words, you two by definition have sympathy: "The fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble" [dictionary.reference.com]






Trump is unintentionally sabotaging his own and Republican candidates' campaigns.

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 06:03AM
There was no "coming around". Ponderer and I have been saying this throughout the entire conversation.

I subscribe to the first part of Merriam-Webster's definition:

"the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions"

which you get through mentally putting yourself in the other person's shoes.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you really are sharing that person's exact emotions.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/17/2015 06:04AM by Hornswoggle.
Sam
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 06:22AM
Curt, Re: "So you think a person can be empathetic about somebody's misfortune but NOT sympathetic. Seriously? Without referencing the NBA finals, I'd like to hear another example."

An empathetic person can feel another person's joy as well as sorrow so no sympathy involved. Did I miss the definition that mentions "misfortune"?
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 06:25AM
Quote
Hornswoggle
There was no "coming around". Ponderer and I have been saying this throughout the entire conversation.

I subscribe to the first part of Merriam-Webster's definition:

"the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions"

which you get through mentally putting yourself in the other person's shoes.

That doesn't necessarily mean that you really are sharing that person's exact emotions.

As long as you use the definition that it's merely a "feeling that you understand and share", then I agree that you can be empathetic.

For me, being sympathetic is sufficient, I don't need to imagine that I am sharing their experiences and emotions. I know that I can and do feel badly and sorry for misfortunate people.






Trump is unintentionally sabotaging his own and Republican candidates' campaigns.

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 06:43AM
Quote
Sam
Curt, Re: "So you think a person can be empathetic about somebody's misfortune but NOT sympathetic. Seriously? Without referencing the NBA finals, I'd like to hear another example."

An empathetic person can feel another person's joy as well as sorrow so no sympathy involved. Did I miss the definition that mentions "misfortune"?

From what I read of this thread we were discussing empathy and empathetic in regards to people who are suffering. Furthermore, the "-pathy" and "-pathetic" parts of the words comes from pathos, which is a root of pity. But I agree that empathy can be broadened to relate to more joyful emotions. But so too has sympathy and sympathetic been broadened to include joyful emotions. If you are using the broader definition of one word, you should use the broader definition of the other word.






Trump is unintentionally sabotaging his own and Republican candidates' campaigns.

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 06:57AM
Watching Curt try to wrap his head around this concept is like watching a fish debate whether or not there is such thing as dry land.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 07:06AM
I find the military process interesting. Military personnel are trained not to empathize with those they are attacking, a way of dehumanizing the other. Then when they attack people and are suppressing empathy, the empathy response also subtley must kick in and they must find themselves repressing it as the adrenaline kicks in. Then years later the traumatic experience leads to cognitive dissonance as they experience competing and conflicting values and have to deal with them but are often unable to.

It's interesting that given empathogens military personal suffering from PTSD have had very positive responses in them helping them deal with such inner struggles. They seem to allow a common understanding which frees them of such inner torment.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/17/2015 07:07AM by Kairos.
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 07:14AM
"I certainly don't doubt that you can and probably do imagine all that. I question the second part of the definition in which you experience "all the sensations" of the other unfortunate person." -Curt

The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position.

Quote

1: the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

2: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this



I have no problems with any of that. And yet I can still feel empathy.

Let's say there is a family of Afghans whose home was hit by drone missiles from the U.S. and it turns out that they were all completely innocent of any wrongdoing. One young boy is the only surviving member, the rest of his family is blown to bits.

I have never had this happen to me. I don't know anyone personally who has had this happen to them. I am not psychic and able to read the mind of that boy. But I can imagine myself in his position. I can imagine such a thing happening to me at his age, even though I'm in my mid fifties, and I would subsequently have feelings and emotions that would arise simply from imagining myself in that situation. Would I be having the exact same feelings and emotions that the Afghan boy is? Would I know exactly what he is thinking? Of course I wouldn't. But humans are not all that different. There is a huge amount of feelings and reactions that are pretty much universal in certain situations and people would be quite likely to have similar thoughts and feelings about them. If asked what he was thinking and feeling, it would be extremely likely that he would be feeling abject sorrow, inconsolable misery and even hopelessness. It would even be likely that he would feel angry towards those responsible for his family's death to some degree or other. Can I declare that I know the exact levels and amounts to which he feels these things? Of course I can't. Am I experiencing "all the sensations", thoughts and feelings exactly as he is? Of course I'm not. But imagining myself in his position, or empathizing with him in that position, naturally brings about certain sensations, thoughts and feelings in me to one degree or another. Feelings I am quite fortunate in being able to get over rather quickly since I am not actually in that situation. I don't care that if you hooked me and that boy up to EKG machines that our brain waves would not be in perfect sync. It doesn't matter. I was still empathizing with him.

Maybe, unbeknownst to anyone, he actually hated his whole family. Maybe they all mistreated and abused him and even tortured him. Maybe he was actually happy that they were all killed. Maybe he had been kidnapped from another family and he's glad he can return to his real family now. Maybe all the feelings I was having when I empathized with him in that situation were totally wrong in his case and didn't match what he was thinking or feeling at all. Maybe he's the one exception to what almost anyone else in that situation would think and feel.

So what? Empathy does not have to be perfect to exist. It doesn't have to be omniscient and unrealistically godlike or there's no such thing.

Empathy is about feeling. It's not about knowing.

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 07:37AM
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Ponderer
So what? Empathy does not have to be perfect to exist. It doesn't have to be omniscient and unrealistically godlike or there's no such thing.

Empathy is about feeling. It's not about knowing.

That's the crux of the matter. If you aren't imagining or projecting yourself "into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position" but instead a rather imperfect version of their emotions how is that empathy and not simply sympathy? Sympathy is by definition about feeling, in fact it is literally feeling with. But sympathy doesn't pretend to project one's personality into another. [dictionary.reference.com]






Trump is unintentionally sabotaging his own and Republican candidates' campaigns.

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 07:47AM
[en.wikipedia.org]

"Empathy

Stephanie Preston and Frans de Waal,[55] Jean Decety,[56][57] and Vittorio Gallese[58][59] and Christian Keysers[3] have independently argued that the mirror neuron system is involved in empathy. A large number of experiments using fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) have shown that certain brain regions (in particular the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and inferior frontal cortex) are active when people experience an emotion (disgust, happiness, pain, etc.) and when they see another person experiencing an emotion.[60][61][62][63][64][65][66] However, these brain regions are not quite the same as the ones which mirror hand actions, and mirror neurons for emotional states or empathy have not yet been described in monkeys.

More recently, Christian Keysers at the Social Brain Lab and colleagues have shown that people who are more empathic according to self-report questionnaires have stronger activations both in the mirror system for hand actions[67] and the mirror system for emotions,[65] providing more direct support for the idea that the mirror system is linked to empathy. Some researchers observed that the human mirror system does not passively respond to the observation of actions but is influenced by the mindset of the observer.[68] Researchers observed the link of the mirror neurons during empathetic engagement in patient care.[69]"

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 08:42AM
Kairos,
I suspect that those neuroscientists or whoever wrote that Wikipedia entry are using the word empathy where sympathy would more properly be used.

Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others. It goes beyond sympathy, which is a feeling of care and understanding for the "feelings" of others. Both words have similar usage but differ in their emotional meaning. [en.wikipedia.org])






Trump is unintentionally sabotaging his own and Republican candidates' campaigns.

Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 09:40AM
Nope specifically they are referring to empathy, the projection of the feelings of others internally. They are proposing like I was earlier that this involves mirror neurons creating mirror representations in the brain. I've read a good pdf by neurologists suggesting that this takes place in the brocas and wernicke's area of the brain and that homologues of these in primates are associated with visual cues from hands and mouths allowing the processing of visual communication.

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"Build yourselves a wall of ships!" said the Oracle!
Re: Empathy - An Old Fashioned Notion Whose Time Has Passed?
February 17, 2015 10:34PM
Nice 3-minute video on The Difference Between Sympathy and Empathy: [themindunleashed.org]
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