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Nitish Panda

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Nitish Panda


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About Nitish Panda

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empathy
humans
unique
Thu, Nov 10, 2016 - 01:20 PM

How do humanists empathise?

How do humanists reconcile the morality of empathy to the fact that each of us are unique in our belief, tastes, emotions etc (i.e we all are different to each other)? Don't we have to fear that what we think as good for ourselves might be bad or uncomfortable for others? e.g - I don't like birthday parties but my friends organise a surprise birthday party for me thinking i will be happy(by empathy). In such case, I would become uncomfortable rather than being happy.
How do humanists answer this dilemma? How can we can effectively show empathy towards others?



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Amy E Hall
Living in the wilds

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Amy E Hall

Living in the wilds

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About Amy E Hall

A freethinker, a world traveler, a pilot, and an artist.
Print Fri, Nov 11, 2016 - 01:44 AM
You may be confusing empathy with the social contract. However, if you don't like surprise parties, but your friends threw you one anyway, you may be less than excited at being surprised. Now..if your lack of enthusiasm is apparent to your friends, they may feel rejected, embarrassed, or even hurt. If you in turn recognize their disappointment, you may empathize with those feelings, or not. the social contract may compel you to pretend....but that doesn't require your empathy toward your disappointed friends.

I think empathy means understanding another's physical or emotion state based on your own experiences. There may be some challenges that another faces, that because it goes outside of your own experience, you may be sympathetic toward, but for which you may be unable to feel true empathy. If you cannot imagine it, I don't see how you can have empathy. Others may disagreee with me. But there is a stark difference between sympathy and empathy.

For instance..if you went to a job interview and were sorely disappointed when they told you no, I can empathize with that scenario because it happened to me,as well. But what if you tell me that your spouse cheated on you? I have never been married, nor have I experienced a cheating lover. So, could I sympathize? Sure. But would I have empathy? Not in my experience.

Also..
It's just a birthday party..eat some cake! Your friends went through a lot of trouble. If you're not having a good time, that is your problem...and I am not sympathetic.


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Bo Bennett, PhD
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Bo Bennett, PhD

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Print Thu, Nov 10, 2016 - 02:20 PM
Hi Nitish,

Let's break empathy down into three components:

1) the initial affective (feeling-based) process that does not require deliberate cognition - this is how we automatically feel when we see or hear about someone suffering
2) the secondary evaluative process - we might adjust our feelings based on a deliberate evaluation of the situation, that is, think about how the other person is probably feeling
3) the final behavioral component - how we express our empathy, which may or may not include deliberate cognition

It is important to understand these components because we can see that, in many cases, empathy is purely automatic and unconscious. For example, if you see a little kid fall down, you might immediately rush over to help him up and ask if he is okay. So in many cases of empathy, there is no dilemma because there is no reasoning involved. In some cases there is deliberate cognition. If we saw a little kid crying in the park following what appeared to be his mother while pointing at balloons, we might evaluate the situation and conclude that the little brat just didn't get the balloons he wanted, and we no longer feel for him.

Your birthday party example would better fall under the category of social intelligence than empathy. This includes knowing the likes and dislikes of other people and treating them how they want to be treated rather than how you would want to be treated. Social intelligence is partly learnable, but there is also a genetic component to it. Some people are simply better than others at it.

If you are interested in developing your social intelligence, I suggest this classic book by Daniel Goldman: https://www.amazon.com/Social-Intelligence-Science-Human-Relationships/dp/055338449X

Be well!
Bo Bennett, PhD
Social Scientist, Business Consultant
About My Businesses > http://www.archieboy.com
About Me > http://www.bobennett.com
Books I’ve Written > https://tinyurl.com/bosbooks
Courses I Teach > https://tinyurl.com/boscourses
Podcasts I Host > https://tinyurl.com/bospodcasts


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Amy E Hall
Living in the wilds

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Print Fri, Nov 11, 2016 - 09:32 AM
You may be confusing empathy with the social contract. However, if you don't like surprise parties, but your friends threw you one anyway, you may be less than excited at being surprised. Now..if your lack of enthusiasm is apparent to your friends, they may feel rejected, embarrassed, or even hurt. If you in turn recognize their disappointment, you may empathize with those feelings, or not. the social contract may compel you to pretend....but that doesn't require your empathy toward your disappointed friends.

I think empathy means understanding another's physical or emotion state based on your own experiences. There may be some challenges that another faces, that because it goes outside of your own experience, you may be sympathetic toward, but for which you may be unable to feel true empathy. If you cannot imagine it, I don't see how you can have empathy. Others may disagreee with me. But there is a stark difference between sympathy and empathy.

For instance..if you went to a job interview and were sorely disappointed when they told you no, I can empathize with that scenario because it happened to me,as well. But what if you tell me that your spouse cheated on you? I have never been married, nor have I experienced a cheating lover. So, could I sympathize? Sure. But would I have empathy? Not in my experience.

Also..
It's just a birthday party..eat some cake! Your friends went through a lot of trouble. If you're not having a good time, that is your problem...and I am not sympathetic.


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Bill Haines
Garden State Attitude in the Old Dominion

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Bill Haines

Garden State Attitude in the Old Dominion

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About Bill Haines

"Love well, seek the good in all things, harm no others, think for yourself, take responsibility, respect nature, do your utmost, be informed, be kind, be courageous: at least, sincerely try."
-- A. C. Grayling
Print Tue, Nov 15, 2016 - 05:07 PM
My own version of the Platinum Rule: "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them -- if reason, compassion and optimism lead you to believe they deserve this and it will help them."


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