On Empathy - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1999 edition) defines empathy as:

"The ability to imagine oneself in anther's place and understandrepparttar other's feelings, desires, ideas, and actions. It is a term coined inrepparttar 126190 early 20th century, equivalent torepparttar 126191 German Einfühlung and modelled on "sympathy." The term is used with special (but not exclusive) reference to aesthetic experience. The most obvious example, perhaps, is that ofrepparttar 126192 actor or singer who genuinely feelsrepparttar 126193 part he is performing. With other works of art, a spectator may, by a kind of introjection, feel himself involved in what he observes or contemplates. The use of empathy is an important part ofrepparttar 126194 counselling technique developed byrepparttar 126195 American psychologist Carl Rogers."

Empathy is predicated upon and must, therefore, incorporaterepparttar 126196 following elements:

Imagination which is dependent onrepparttar 126197 ability to imagine; The existence of an accessible Self (self-awareness or self-consciousness); The existence of an available other (other-awareness, recognizingrepparttar 126198 outside world); The existence of accessible feelings, desires, ideas and representations of actions or their outcomes both inrepparttar 126199 empathizing Self ("Empathor") and inrepparttar 126200 Other,repparttar 126201 object of empathy ("Empathee"); The availability of an aesthetic frame of reference; The availability of a moral frame of reference. While (a) is presumed to be universally available to all agents (though in varying degrees) -repparttar 126202 existence ofrepparttar 126203 other components of empathy should not be taken for granted.

Conditions (b) and (c), for instance, are not satisfied by people who suffer from personality disorders, such asrepparttar 126204 Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Condition (d) is not met in autistic people (e.g., those who suffer fromrepparttar 126205 Asperger syndrome). Conditions (e) is so totally dependent onrepparttar 126206 specifics ofrepparttar 126207 culture, period and society in which it exists - that it is rather meaningless and ambiguous as a yardstick. Condition (f) suffer from both afflictions: it is both culture-dependent AND is not satisfied in many people (such as those who suffer fromrepparttar 126208 Antisocial Personality Disorder and who are devoid of any conscience or moral sense).

Thus,repparttar 126209 very existence of empathy should be questioned. It is often confused with inter-subjectivity. The latter is defined thus by "The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 1995":

"This term refers torepparttar 126210 status of being somehow accessible to at least two (usually all, in principle) minds or 'subjectivities'. It thus implies that there is some sort of communication between those minds; which in turn implies that each communicating minds aware not only ofrepparttar 126211 existence ofrepparttar 126212 other but also of its intention to convey information torepparttar 126213 other. The idea, for theorists, is that if subjective processes can be brought into agreement, then perhaps that is as good asrepparttar 126214 (unattainable?) status of being objective - completely independent of subjectivity. The question facing such theorists is whether intersubjectivity is definable without presupposing an objective environment in which communication takes place (the 'wiring' from subject A to subject B). At a less fundamental level, however,repparttar 126215 need for intersubjective verification of scientific hypotheses has been long recognized". (page 414).

Onrepparttar 126216 face of it,repparttar 126217 difference between intersubjectivity and empathy is double:

Intersubjectivity requires an EXPLICIT, communicated agreement between at least two subjects. It involves EXTERNAL things (so called "objective" entities). These "differences" are artificial. This how empathy is defined in "Psychology - An Introduction (Ninth Edition) by Charles G. Morris, Prentice Hall, 1996":

"Closely related torepparttar 126218 ability to read other people's emotions is empathy -repparttar 126219 arousal of an emotion in an observer that is a vicarious response torepparttar 126220 other person's situation... Empathy depends not only on one's ability to identify someone else's emotions but also on one's capacity to put oneself inrepparttar 126221 other person's place and to experience an appropriate emotional response. Just as sensitivity to non-verbal cues increases with age, so does empathy: The cognitive and perceptual abilities required for empathy develop only as a child matures... (page 442)

In empathy training, for example, each member ofrepparttar 126222 couple is taught to share inner feelings and to listen to and understandrepparttar 126223 partner's feelings before responding to them. The empathy technique focusesrepparttar 126224 couple's attention on feelings and requires that they spend more time listening and less time in rebuttal." (page 576).

Thus empathy does requirerepparttar 126225 communication of feelings AND an agreement onrepparttar 126226 appropriate outcome ofrepparttar 126227 communicated emotions (=affective agreement). Inrepparttar 126228 absence of such agreement, we are faced with inappropriate affect (laughing at a funeral, for instance).

Moreover, empathy does relate to external objects and is provoked by them. There is no empathy inrepparttar 126229 absence of an empathee. Granted, intersubjectivity is intuitively applied torepparttar 126230 inanimate while empathy is applied torepparttar 126231 living (animals, humans, even plants). But this is a difference in human preferences - not in definition.

Schindler's List: A Fecal Matter

Written by Robert Levin

(The following was written in 1993.)

Recently, when a visiting friend wanted to rent it, I saw "Schindler’s List" again. I can report that a second viewing of Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal ofrepparttar concentration camp commandant Amon Goeth yields even more layers and subtleties. But Fiennes notwithstanding, I have to say that, for me, watching "Schindler’s List" has now twice been a vexing experience.

What irritates me about "Schindler’s List" is that it never gets beyond lamenting man’s inhumanity to man and celebratingrepparttar 126189 triumph ofrepparttar 126190 human spirit, etc., when it could have thrown at least a quick light on something of consequence that apparently still baffles a lot of people—whatrepparttar 126191 Nazis were actually about.

Normallyrepparttar 126192 absence of serious probing intorepparttar 126193 psychodynamics of egregious human behavior would no more disappoint me in a Steven Spielberg film—even one aboutrepparttar 126194 Holocaust—than it did in a episode of “Hogan’s Heroes.” Spielberg is an enormously gifted filmmaker, but plumbingrepparttar 126195 nastier depths isn’t something he does and you don’t go to his movies looking for that. (Onrepparttar 126196 contrary, you go inrepparttar 126197 hope of retrieving a prepubescent innocence.) So I’d have no cause to make an issue ofrepparttar 126198 film’s limitations in this regard were it not forrepparttar 126199 fact that Spielberg comes maddeningly close to giving his audience a glimpse of whererepparttar 126200 Nazi’s were coming from. (You could say, in fact, that he gets to within just an inch or so of accomplishing this.)

I’m thinking ofrepparttar 126201 scenes in which Goeth shoots two prisoners from his balcony and then returns to his apartment and urinates.

In this sequence, Spielberg is demonstrating thatrepparttar 126202 most monstrous deeds issue from men just likerepparttar 126203 rest of us, and he makes this point very nicely. The trouble is that everyone’s known as much sincerepparttar 126204 Eichmann trial. To keep this statement AND illuminate what it is that turnsrepparttar 126205 ordinary man into a homicidal maniac, all Spielberg needed to do was have Goeth, in place of urinating, sit down and move his bowels.

I’m serious. It’s shit, after all, that personifiesrepparttar 126206 hideous fate of decay and dissolution that nature has devised for everything corporeal. Shit approximates—and serves daily to anticipate—the condition our bodies themselves will wind up in. And it’srepparttar 126207 problem of which shit is emblematic,repparttar 126208 mother of all problems,repparttar 126209 problem of death, thatrepparttar 126210 “Final Solution” was, of course, addressing.

Let’s, just for a minute, try to acknowledge something that ought to be common wisdom—certainly afterrepparttar 126211 work of Ernest Becker. What makesrepparttar 126212 world go around is, purely and simply,repparttar 126213 fact of death. The real, if usually unconscious, purpose of virtually all human behavior is to mitigaterepparttar 126214 terror and panicrepparttar 126215 anticipation of death induces; to, atrepparttar 126216 very least, reducerepparttar 126217 trepidation that derives fromrepparttar 126218 very terms of existence to a manageable degree of fear.

When, for a relatively straightforward and transparent example, we inventrepparttar 126219 prospect of an afterlife and then adhere to rules of conduct we’ve decided will assure us of admission, we are handing ourselves a comforting shot at surviving death. But another ofrepparttar 126220 myriad ways we’ve concocted or seized upon to make living with an intolerable given possible is to pursue and amass financial wealth beyondrepparttar 126221 requirements of our organismic well-being. The god-like trappings great sums of money buys enable us to feel superior not just torepparttar 126222 common man but, more importantly, torepparttar 126223 common fate. Many ofrepparttar 126224 “faults” or “neuroses” we develop are also designed to cushion us againstrepparttar 126225 specter of death. Procrastination, for instance, helps us to fashionrepparttar 126226 illusion that we are suspending time.

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