Limitations of empathy in both real and virtual life

Empathy, a humane ability to recognize thoughts and feelings within another conscious being, is beneficial to all parties in most social contexts. However, ideal empathy only occurs when the empathizer is able to fully inherit all the feelings and experiences of others while in real life, this is hard to be achieved. Various factors such as unfamiliarity with others, deficiency of information and difference of referents will unconsciously lead to people’s failure of identification with another’s emotional state. Such kind of empathy’s drawbacks, though sometimes wisely guides people to make moral choices, deserves people’s attention to perform empathy appropriately. In my introduction to blog series, I am going to shed light on empathy’s limitations from real life to virtual world, and explain how they come into effect.

 

 

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Empathy’s dependence on referents

Generally speaking, empathy’s limitation lies mostly in its dependence on empathizer’s referents. Since empathizer can never directly know what the object is thinking about, he only infers the object’s inner state. And to achieve this, Dan H. Buie contends that “The empathizer finds a referent within his own mind, a referent that could, if expressed, reasonably be manifested by cues similar to those he observed in object”. According to the post “Changes and continuities in Atticus’s characters”, this limitation is most notably illustrated through Jean Louise’s transition from failing to empathize with Atticus, to being softened at the end of the novel(GSAW). Then what on earth causes this transition? And what is the reason behind the complete change of her attitude? According to the post, when Jean was young, Atticus defends Tom Robinson by declaring, “In courts, all we are legally equal.”(TKMB) Although Tom Robinson was finally died of racial discrimination, Atticus’s spirit of searching for justice and equality, in the eye of little Jean Louis, was admirable and irreplaceable. At the same time, the heroic figure of Atticus is built in Jean’s heart, which also constituted the referent she held then. However, her lack of empathy towards Atticus happens when she found that she could no more find similar referent to empathize with him. The idolized figure to fight against racists is now replaced by the one who attends Citizen’s Council and opposes the efforts of NAACP, while the referent, as what she believed Atticus should be, still remains. Then why she softened at the end of the novel? According to the post, during her time in Maycomb, she gradually realized that the admirable roles in her heart, Uncle Jack and Atticus, are revealed to be not the perfect ones as she expected them to be. Atticus does share some thoughts of a racist. Jack is not as mild as she thought who hit her almost to pass out. Along with her realization, her referent of Atticus unconsciously changes from a sparkling figure built from childhood to a flawed human seen from an adult’s perspective. If we take all these discussed above to think about Jean’s transition, it is not hard to understand the reason why Jean changes from being angry to feeling softened.

 

 

ingroup

In-group Bias

Apart from empathizer’s inference based on referents, people also fails to empathize because of the in-group preference of empathy. In literary works, such kind of preference is easily to be ignored when scholars try to find approaches to empathizing with devils. Adam Morton, who contends that overcoming the barriers of morality will help people empathize with devils, further to better empathize with ordinary issues, is one of them. According to the post “What attitude should we hold towards empathy for atrocities?”, he describes this morality-limited empathy as “we want to take empathy as easy, to ease everyday interaction, and we want to take it as difficult, to keep a distance between us and those we despise.” And “a deeper understanding, and a more solid empathy, for some very ordinary actions” will be achieved if we are able to empathize with atrocities. However, to empathize with evil-doers is not as simple as his reasoning seems to be. Just as Fuchsman, Ken indicated, “Empathy is most likely to emerge with those with whom we are familiar, those that are an ‘us’”. This means that people tend to empathize with those who are in the “same” group. To satisfy this requirement, the pre-condition to empathize with devils requires the empathizer to be in the same group as the object, which in this case, is to be a group member of “devil communities”. To conclude, people’s morality, though leads to people’s failure of empathy, prevents them from becoming evil-doers and helps them empathize with “similar” moral people. Even if the limitation performs a good role to benefit social justice here, it still deserves our concern when in multicultural social contexts, people might be affected by empathy’s in-group limitation through decision-making, leading to partial and biased choices.

 

onlinecyberbully

Cyber bullying online

In online community, however, based on its anonymous nature, such kind of in-group limitation may exaggerate people’s empathy on social media, leading to extreme reactions.  According to the post “Demeaning words online–Exaggerated empathy’s limitation protected by anonymous mask”, it addresses the question why people empathize more for Sun Yang while leading to lack of empathy for Mack Horton. With regard to the post, Mack Horton’s remark of Sun Yang as “drug cheater” in interview, which is uploaded later online, has brought huge outpourings of rage towards him on social media. People condemned Mack Horton as violating Olympic spirits and lacking of respect towards competitors. The truth is, according to the post, Sun was using a medication for his heart problem, but unfortunately, it contained a substance which had just been banned as a new type of stimulant while related departments have not updated that rule. Objectively speaking, nothing should be regarded as wrong on the side of Mack since Sun did take banned medicine. Meanwhile, on the side of Sun, he should not be labelled as “Drug Cheat” regarding that the nature of his violation should be regarded as an accident instead of an intended action. According to the post, the in-group preference was exaggerated under the protection of anonymous “mask” so that social media users can express their ideas, even in extremely demeaning words, without having to be responsible. With the development of social media moving forward, such kind of empathy preference is affecting more and more social media users. And more importantly, such kind of exaggerated, irresponsible or even illegal empathy pouring may sometimes result in severer consequence than that in real life.

 

In a word, the involvement of empathy did help people to live and work morally, but we should still be aware of the limitations brought by. The very nature of empathy, specifically, its dependence on referents and in-group preference in both real and virtual life deserves people concern while we are seeking for a better way to apply and perform empathy to consolidate interpersonal relationships and pursue social justice.

Work Cited:

Fuchsman, Ken. “Empathy and Humanity.” The Journal of psychohistory, vol. 42, no. 3, 2015., pp. 176.

 

Buie, D. H. “Empathy: Its Nature and Limitations.” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, vol. 29, no. 2, 1981., pp. 281.

 

Empathy Reveals the Veil of Cruelty

Empathy is like an iceberg and when penetrating the meaning of the word “empathy”, plenty of scholars contend their own thoughtful definitions and explanations. Besides the meaning of “empathy” itself, people extend to explore the reasons and the methods of attaching empathy rationally and accurately. However, instead of shrinking our scope on delving how and why we should generate empathy, I prefer to neglect the consummate ideality of empathy initially and bring empathy into practice and see what can eventually come out.

After comprehending Adam Morton article “Empathy for the devil”, two eminent novels “Go Set a Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” written by Nelle Harper Lee and Jon Ronson’s article about social media “God that was Awesome”, I found empathy reveals the veil of cruelty. There are surface and potential meanings of the term “cruelty”. Initially, superficially cruelty can be the evils in Morton’s article whose misbehaviors are not easily forgivable and understandable, can be the indifferent social media which enables people to judge others based on anonymity, and also can be Jean Louise’s vehemently disagreement and furious abomination of her father Atticus Finch. However, without the role of empathy, the instinct humanity and morality of human nature prevent people from acknowledging the existent cruelty. In this circumstance, valuable ethics become a blocking wall of feeling the devils and the purpose of empathy is to destroy this impediment. It is empathy that allows people with decency and morality accurately understanding the devils, enables the users of social media to be aware of the potentially vicious slander when commenting on others and let Jean Louise generate complicated emotions to her beloved father.

empathyblindnessFurthermore, potential and subsequent cruelty occur when people dedicate themselves to fully empathize with others but sometimes eventually the limitations of empathy and misunderstandings of others come out. For instance, pseudo-empathy is generated because of the lack of understanding as Adam Morton says “a connection with an evil action that preserves moral character at the price of describing the wrong kind of barrier, such as decency and morality toward devils or disgusting things, makes pseudo-empathy, an empathetic feeling that is not accompanied by understanding”. (Morton 327) Moreover, people hold wrong understanding of the unseen people in the social media as the scholar Martin L. Hoffman says that “the limitations of empathy include that we empathize with people nearby and empathize more to physically present people than potentially unseen people.” (Hoffman 251) Knowing the surface of the facts without exploring the roots and the backgrounds of the people in social media, people tend to be cruel and their unintentional comments turn out to be trenchant sword to hurt others mentally and even physically. Third, for the main character Jean in “Go Set a Watchman”, Jean Louise relies on her father’s belief and has enormous “self-oriented” empathy but lack of independent conscience pursuing and “other-oriented” empathy. (Hoffman 233) When she empathizes that Atticus changes into a mature and “flawed” conscience, she starts to resist everyone who has different attitude from her. Her indifference and rigorous antipathy hurt people who cherish her most and make everyone suffer because her limitation of empathy.

To elaborate, as for the blog post 4, I illustrate that potential cruelty appears when people conduct empathy only based on the recall of their own experience instead of completely placing themselves in others’ situation. I also have a disagreement of Adam Morton’s definition of pseudo-empathy and assert that “self-focused” (recalling own experience) should be in accordance with “other-focused”. I summarize Adam Morton’s two examples and instance an example related to my own experience to demonstrate my perspective. Furthermore, I adopt a scholar source written by Coplan Amy to support my argument that in order to fully understand and get rid of pseudo-empathy, both “self-oriented” perspective and “other-oriented” perspective is needed to be taken into consideration.

In the blog post 5, I assert that the anonymous character of Internet is misused by public and the cruelty appears when the public tend to wrongly empathize with the victims based on the insufficient information. My own example of this illustrates how the public’s perspectives shift and how people’s empathy goes in fade when they hear of different aspects of facts and I conclude that the audience as us are the cruel people who should be responsible for the miserable mental damages obtained by innocent unseen online victims.

For blog post 6, I concentrate on the cruelty of Jean Louise when she endeavors to empathize with her father Atticus’s change. Her over-empathy and over reliance on Atticus block her from considering about her own responsibility of setting her own moral watchman. This over “self-oriented” empathy in some extent hides the “other-oriented” empathy and thus causes her misunderstanding of people who have different conscience from her.

Consequently, after reading all my blog posts, the readers can understand why empathy reveals the veil cruelty in two ways: empathy is helpful for us to discern the cruelty and cruelty can also be generated by empathy’s limitations.

 

 

the links of Blog 4,5,6

How can we overcome pseudo-empathy A disagreement about Adam Morton

Empathy in the Digital Age

A Watchman of Jean’s Conscience

 

Cited from:

Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254

Morton, Adam. “Empathy For The Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie, Oxford University Press, 2011, 318-330.

 

What causes ‘pseudo empathy

What causes ‘pseudo empathy’  

Due to the many researches and experiments related to empathy being published recently, the awareness of empathy as a pro-social behavior has been raised. Many people now find empathy a very useful technique in dealing with social relations. However, question raises when people find there’re many cases where their empathy does not match the actual feeling of others; Many people started questioning: ‘what causes this kind of ‘fake empathy and how can we avoid it? ’. My thesis is that this fake empathy occurs when people did not realize the difference in background when they try to empathize with others, and only if we take the background into consideration can we truly empathize with others. In my first blog posts I state my argument by referring to a scholarly resource. In second and third blog posts, I further illustrated my point by providing examples of cases where people form pseudo empathy.

To answer the question ‘what causes fake empathy’, we need to first define this’ fake empathy’ appropriately. In Morton’s article ‘article for the devil’, he gives a definition for pseudo empathy in terms of people just understanding ‘why’, not understanding ‘how’ others did what they did. However, I find this definition in terms of ‘why’ and ‘how’ is still not comprehensive and a little ambiguous, so in ‘Disagreement with Adam Morton on pseudo empathy definition’ I mainly argued that even if people perfectly understand why and how a person perform his act, they can still form pseudo empathy because the intensity of their feeling is different, and that this is due to the background of people which varies individual from individual. To fully illustrated my point, I cited Nelson and Baumgarte’s test of how cultural similarity affects perspective taking and empathy for an interpersonal target. They concluded at the end that perceived cultural dissimilarity can reduce perspective taking and empathy.

http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/20/blog-assignment-4/

In order to answer how pseudo empathy is formed, the cases on internet must be taken into consideration since internet is the most common place where people communicate with each other nowadays. In ‘Internet violence caused by pseudo empathy’, I further demonstrate that pseudo empathy is very easy to form, especially on the internet, because the anonymous environment gives people so little information about each other’s background. Different from that in real life, due to fast-update attributes of internet, any misunderstanding or misinterpret of a person’s motives can be spread very fast and cause tremendous harm to that person. I illustrated my point using the example of ‘Jay Chou‘s donation. After the strong earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan Province, Taiwan singer Jay Chou immediately donated 5 million RMB to Sichuan. However, rumor spread out that he only donate 5 thousands RMB. People, who didn’t know who Jay Zhou was before and had no idea of his background history, stared to ‘empathize’ with him and think he was using this little donation to humiliate people in mainland china and rooting for the independence of Taiwan. So In this case, people formed pseudo empathy towards Jay Chou. Also, facing such harrowing natural disasters, people are easy to form empathy towards victim, however, as we know this empathy leads to a bad results. This raises another concern that on the internet real empathy is easy to be manipulated and twisted into pseudo empathy, just as Tatjana Milivojević stated in his article ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials vs. Risks’: ‘digital age enables empathy, which was once reserved for the narrowest community, to expanded globally. However, this optimistic view doesn’t take under consideration that human capacity for empathy isn’t limitless. The paradox of empathy lays within its possibility of being used as a means of control and manipulation.’

http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/25/empathy-in-digital-ege/

Fake empathy is also easy to form when people is influenced so much by seeing a person’s unusual behavior and lost the ability to related the action to his background in a proper way even though they know his background very well. In ‘Atticus is not a racist in Go set a watchman’, I mainly discussed the character of Atticus Finch in ‘To kill a mocking bird and Go set a watchman’. I state that Atticus did not become a racist in Go set a watchman as many people may say, and I still see the continuity in his character as he is still pursuing his justice and still holding his responsibility towards Maycomb people. People who think Atticus becomes a racist only see the action Atticus performed without considering his background: They formed pseudo empathy towards Atticus and misinterpret his motive. To make my argument, I cited paragraphs from the novel that shows Atticus believed in ‘The right to vote is a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly nor to be taken lightly.’ and this is his motive to deny the NAACP’s demand for vote rights. It is not about racial prejudice, but a simple rule: ‘there’s no free lunch’. Atticus is not trying to draw a line between Black and White, but a line between a well-educated man who is responsible for himself and the society and a man who is uneducated and can’t mind his own business. What he did seems very like what a racist would do, but if we want to truly empathize with him, we have to incorporate his action with his background and personality to fully understand his motive.

https://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/wp-admin/post.php?post=3882&action=edit

Based on the experiment that and the example I provide, I come to the conclusion that pseudo empathy towards a person is easy to occur when people don’t know the person’s background or they don’t have the awareness to incorporate his background when understanding his behavior.

work cited:

Heinke.MS, and WR Louis. “Cultural Background and Individualistic-Collectivistic Values in Relation to Similarity, Perspective Taking, and Empathy.” JOURNAL OF APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, 2009, pp. 2570-2590.

Nelson, Donna W., and Roger Baumgarte. “Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings Reduce Empathic Responding1.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology, vol. 34, no. 2, 2004., pp. 391-401

Milivojević Tatjana, Ivana Ercegovac. ‘Empathy and the Internet: Positive Potentials Vs. Risks.’ Kultura (Skopje), 2015, pp. 103-112.

Miller, galanty. ‘Atticus Finch Is Not a Racist’.2015, Facebook

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

The Real Empathy Improve Our lives Both On Internet And Reality

We, as the new generation of the undergraduate students, have literally lived in the information-overloaded age. Since the moment that we were born, the internet played an unseparated part throughout our own development. The giant flow of information that comes with the rapid development of the internet undoubtedly brings us a lot of benefits, just as what you are doing: search the key word “empathy” in the search engine. However, we are also exposed to numerous of conflicts on the internet that are caused by people’s incapability of truly understanding the others. Under this circumstance, a major question has raised up: how to truly empathize with others in order to a make benign environment both in internet and the real life?

 

To anwer this very question, wempathye first need our definition of real and pseudo-empathy. In Amy Colpan’s “will the Real Empathy Please Stand Up? a Case for a Narrow Conceptualization.”, she gives the definition of two kinds of empathy. The first one Is self-oriented empathy, pseudo-empathy, in which according to Colpan, “We use our own selves and our responses to various simulated or imagined scenarios as a way to gain access to or understand another person’s situated psychological states”. This would result in inaccurate prediction and failed stimulation of other’s thoughts, feelings and desire, thus setting up such a large number of fight both in reality and internet. The other one is other-oriented empathy, the real empathy, in which “a process through which an observer simulates another’s situated psychological states, while maintaining clear self–other differentiation.”(Colpan). Only by this process, we are able to obtain experimental understanding of another person, the understanding from “inside”. To do so, lots of unnecessary fight will be avoided.

 

In the first post, I reflect “Empathy of The Devil” by Morton, whose mainly concern is why people do not empathize with the atrocious behaviors, and believes that this is because of the barriers of decency, which are same as those they would face in committing atrocious behaviors. In Morton’s perspective, we can display to ourselves an emotion that the perpetuator might have under the situation that she or he conducts atrocious acts, but we cannot understand the reason why the perpetuator passes the barrier of decency to behave atrociously. When viewed from Colpan’s perspective, Morton’s point does not hold water. According to Colpan, this kind of emotion-sharing process is called “Emotional Contagions”, in which we can catch others’ emotion but transmit no understanding. It is clear for us to tell that sometimes people’s incapability or misunderstanding of each other, which would cause fights, is because there are lack of empathy between them. Because of the “Emotional Contagions”, people sometimes just get a sense of emotions by the conductors of, what they might think, atrocious acts. Then massive of accusation would be created by these people who are lack of empathy.

 

In the second post, I discuss the hot issue that is often mentioned by people, Empathy in Digital Age. In my perspective, pseudo-empathy prevails in social media. Because of the short size of each post in social media and lack of face-to-face interation, people would often view other people’s posts with the self-oriented-perspective-taking, which is same as pseudo-empathy according to Colpan. Hence, they would often misunderstand the intention that their author sending these posts. Instead, they would focus on one of the negative points that are indirectly reflected by these post, thus creating the endlessly fight on the social media.

 

In the last one, I state my own point after reading the novel “Go Set a Watchman”.  I believe that the other-oriented empathy is the special ability that can be trained and is the symbol of maturity. originally, owing to lack of empathy, Jean Louis feels unexpectedly shocked by witnessing her father, Atticus, attending a council encouraging segregation between races. By seeing so, her impression of Atticus as an undaunted hero who always pursues justice collapses, thus creating a tense relationship between she and Atticus. However, after several conversations with uncle Jake, she finally eases her tense relationship between her father. This novel also convey idea that with the development toward maturity, people would gradually obtain the ability of empathize with real empathy. In the last post, I illustrate development of a young lady, Jean Louis, in which she is gradually able empathize other with real empathy, though experiencing ups and downs. Eventually, when she is able to understand her father with the real empathy, she not only mitigates her mentally struggling with identifying with the town where she grown up and accepting the inconsistent acts of Atticus in her childhood and her current situation, but also she becomes a wise, independent young lady.

 

To sum up, our human beings have a nature tendency to empathize with self-oriented empathy, pseudo-empathy. That is the reason why there are so many flights on internet and in reality. Nevertheless, in my view, the most effective way to meliorate this situation, no matter in daily reaction and on internet, is to train ourselves to have the ability to empathize with other-oriented perspective, to understand others from within.

Work cited

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, NY, 2015.

Ronson, Jon. Part Four, God That Was Awesome, So You’ve been Publicly Shamed, Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), New York, 2015

Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil – Oxford Scholarship.” Empathy for     the Devil – Oxford Scholarship. N.p., 06 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

COPLAN, AMY. “will the Real Empathy Please Stand Up? a Case for a Narrow Conceptualization.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol. 49, 2011., pp. 40-65doi:10.1111/j.2041-6962.2011.00056.x.

 

Introduction to an epiphany

This blog sequence will address some of the complex situations that arise with empathy. Empathy is something that allows people to think about situations from a different perspective.This sequence will take a specific focus on empathy on a larger scale. This exploration will help come to a conclusion on the question of, “When empathy(or a lack thereof) plays a role, how is there an impact on the joint thinking of large groups of people?” As the thread evolves, it will become clear that when a group is involved in scenario that involves empathy, the joint thinking among the group is close to identical. Even within a group of people with considerable differences, the response to an empathic situation is similar.

The thread begins by critically analyzing the arguments made by Adam Morton. My point that is made about Adam Morton can show what happens when somebody examines a situation of empathy, though disregards the theory that I bring up about joint thinking. Morton makes a variety of points in regards to empathizing with people who are “evil”. I take a specific focus on his discussion of “pseudo-empathy”, primarily because this is when issues arise. Throughout his essay, Morton relies on the use of the terms “empathy” and “pseudo-empathy”. In saying “pseudo-empathy”, he claims to be referring to empathy with an absence of understanding. It ends up that Morton’s reference to people who have “Empathy for the Devil” actually just have “pseudo-empathy”, which is not empathy at all. These ideas help to give an alternate example of a potential result of a situation with empathy. Adam Morton sees a select few people respond to evil acts with empathy. The vast majority of people respond with “pseudo-empathy”, which is also known as no empathy. In other words, the joint response of the group is the same. As this thread will go on to prove, the actions of the majority need to be taken for truth as opposed to an attempt to fit them in with outliers. While Adam Morton seems puzzled as to why people empathize with the devil, he just looking at the actions of a minority of the group. He has no reason to puzzled.

The bridge to the entire sequence is blog post 2, which gives us a very specific example of large group empathy playing out. As the example used here is looking at a social media reaction. Social media encompasses millions of people, which denotes the large group. This post looks at both the specific example and another source that further explains the example. The outside source that is examined comes from a man named P.J. Manney. He helps to make sense of the overall large group impacts that come from empathy. Manney discusses the idea of an “out group”, which can only be created with a very large group of non empathizers. Once these people agree on a particular “out group” that deserves no understanding or empathy, everyone feels the right to pounce on members of the out group. This is why when people make major mistakes in the public eye, people become ruthless and forget that this person has any real role other than this one bad action. In this post, there is also the example which helps to give a more concrete idea of the out group. I took Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed the popular lion named Ceil on a trophy hunting trip in Zimbabwe. The general public saw him as being in the out group of people that don’t value the lives of animals, thus they had no empathy for him. He was highly criticized and had to adjust his day-to-day life in order to avoid the negative media attention everywhere he went. This criticism came from people across the world who have many sets of values, though found similar in showing no empathy for this out group.  

The final thread to the blog sequence elaborates on the progression of Atticus Finch in several of Harper Lee’s novels. When a reader experiences Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird prior to Go Set a Watchman, there is a clear sense that Atticus Finch (the father in the book) seems to shift from an activist for race equality to a racist. I explain how this historical example shows the strong role of a lack of empathy over a longer time period. While readers see Atticus Finch as a rare activist following his defense of Tom Robinson, there’s more to it. The reader cannot forgot the strength that the joint thinking of the Southern community has. For To Kill a Mockingbird, both Scout and the readers are able to maintain a fantasy world for some time. Though, reality caught up and we realized that Atticus Finch is just like the rest of his racist peers. Going along with the ideas of P.J. Manney, we have to remember that most of the South in this time had placed African Americans in an out-group. It is not likely that Atticus will go against this huge group. During this time, there was a non-existent sense of empathy among white people. As sweet as his defense of Tom Robinson seemed, it just is not that simple. Atticus had a great passion for his job, and he was able to bear the embarrassment of defending a black man for a short period of time. While it took a while for it to become completely obvious, everyone can now see that Atticus has always been apart of his community and their views on African Americans.

Overall, it has become obvious that even large groups of people will respond similarly to the same stimulus. The three examples discussed in the sequence all differ, though each similarly shows that groups respond to empathy related situations in nearly identical ways. These are all examples from people’s actions, but it would be realistic to say that this thesis could also be backed with psychological research. Everyone shares something in their brain that allows such a similar reaction regardless of race, gender, culture or values.

Works Cited

Manney, P.J. “Is Technology Destroying Empathy?” LiveScience.  30 June 2015. Web. 23 October 2016. <http://www.livescience.com/51392-will-tech-bring-humanity-together-or-tear-it-apart.html>

WHAT DOES TAKE TO EMPATHIZE WITH ACTIONS WE ABHOR?

WHAT DOES TAKE TO EMPATHIZE WITH ACTIONS WE ABHOR?

empathy For a long time, people have debated on the question of what we really need to empathize with actions we tend to dislike. Different people have different opinions about this question. Understanding what real empathy is will help us answer this. Empathy as some define it is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to the actions of another and hence experiencing the feelings of another” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Using a sequence of three blogs “Asking why”, “Technology puts empathy at risk” and “Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him?” and an essay by Paul Formosa, I will answer the question of what it takes to empathize with other people most especially when they have done what we dislike. I argue that we need to accept that humans are in general capable of both good and evil and to understand different contexts in which humans act is key to empathizing with them. In “Asking why” I will explain that we need to understand the motives and the environment (context) of the evil doer in order to empathize with them. Paul Formosa supports my claim in “Asking why” where he explains that we need to understand why a person did something to empathize with them.  I will then use both “Technology puts empathy at risk” and “Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him?” as my examples to show that understanding the context of an action and the true nature of the actor (humans can do both good and evil) both combined give us the right angle to view the world from hence leading to real empathy.

What is it about an action we need to understand in order to empathize with the actor? Is it how the action was performed or why it was performed? In his essay “Empathy for the devil” Adam Morton explains that because people have “Internalized code of conduct” that normally prevents them to do evil actions, they find it hard to empathize with atrocious actions. Morton hence argues that for people to sort of silence that code of conduct, they need to visualize “how” as opposed to “why” a person performed an atrocious action in order to empathize with them. Morton explains that imagining how a person did an evil action makes us surmount our inner code of conduct which understanding why wouldn’t achieve according to him (319). Morton says that why only gives us the motives and desires but not the real way in which a person was able to surmount their own code of conduct that normally prevents them to do evil actions (319). I agree with Morton’s point on why we find it hard to empathize with evil actions- we have an internal code of conduct. However, I disagree with the method Morton proposes to empathize with atrocious actions. I argue that understanding how a person did an atrocious action is a problem since it requires us to imagine and we cannot always rely on our imagination to be accurate or even close to the reality in the first place. On the hand, understanding why a person did something needs us to talk to the person and grasp their motives, desires and the role their environment might have played in determining their action(context).

human-natureWhat can we then say are the prerequisites to empathize with a person? In his essay “Understanding evil actions” Paul Formosa explains that we are often unable to empathize with evil because we are “puzzled by it”. He explains that we tend to find evil very unusual and surprising and against our normal way of behaving. He then explains that understanding why people do evil things gives us their motives and hence an understanding of their context and point of view. Therefore, understanding why a person performed an action gives us the first prerequisite to empathizing with actions we find evil. The second prerequisite is to understand the true human nature which is that people change and there is no saint in any of us. No matter how good a person might be, they sometimes do bad things. Also, even though people do bad things sometimes, it doesn’t follow that they are entirely bad.  We all do bad things maybe not of the same intensity but we all do a certain level of good and evil. Therefore, we should not have big expectations of the goodness or evilness of anyone. The definition of empathy demands that we understand and be sensitive to someone’s action. This can be grasped from knowing someone’s motives, desires, their environment and the person’s true nature. Both the context of an action and the true nature of the performer are what we need to empathize with them.

empathy

If one of these people tried to view the number from the other’s direction, they would see that the other person isn’t wrong but that they are just viewing the number from a different position.

Most of times, humans tend to be quick to judge other peoples’ actions or behaviors. However, we might be surprised how quick our judgements can change once we are willing to listen to other people’s views before making conclusions. In the movie “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson (a black man) accused of raping a white woman. Since Atticus defends Tom even though he is a black man, we are given reasons to think that Atticus believed in human equality and despised discrimination against black people. However, Atticus later changes into a racist (in Go set a watchman). When Jean Louise- his daughter who grew up looking up to his father-finds out that her dad turned to be racist, she is very disappointed in her father that she decides to leave her home town. The very first problem that she meets that makes it hard to empathize with her father is her “inner code of conduct” (as Morton explains). She believes that all human beings are equal. This belief of hers makes it hard to understand how anyone most especially her father (who used to be good) could be racist. The way Jean Louise is able to empathize with her father is that her father explained to her that he joined the council because he believes that black people in that society are “backwards” and hence should not be allowed to rule or vote (Harper, 246-247). This conversation makes Jean Louise understand her dad’s motive to join the council. Jean Louise is also able to understand that almost every white person in Maycomb was racist at the time hence makes her understand the influence this racist environment might have had on her father. This makes her understand the “context” (his reasons and his environment) that is attached to her father’s story. After understanding that, she also realizes that she took her dad to be a “God” who can’t do anything wrong- she had always expected him to be perfect as her uncle Jack explains to her (Harper 273). After understanding her father, Jean Louise decides to stay. This example illustrates Paul Formosa’s and Morton’s point that once we overcome we overcome the “puzzlement” and the “inner code of conduct”, we can then empathize with others.

That being said, empathizing with people we don’t necessarily know or can’t talk to directly like fellow internet users can be even more tricky. As I mention in “Technology puts empathy at risk”, it is hard to get the right context of a story we read on social media or in the news. Let us take the example of Jean Michel Habineza who was accused of insulting Rwandan leaders. During a debate at Pepperdine University, Jean Michel Habineza (a Rwandan debater) tried to compare the politics in the united states and politics in Africa where he made a point that African leaders should have more preparation towards their careers because currently in Africa “People move from fighting in the bush to being presidents the next day” (Tanya Garcia, “Rwandan Debaters focus on empowering the youth”, Pepperdine University Graphic). Rwandans started media shaming him that he has insulted Rwanda and her leaders. But if we think about it, he had never mentioned any specific country in Africa nor did he say that he was talking about Rwanda specifically. The use of internet hence had robbed the Rwandan people, the right context in which Jean Michel was saying what he said. People did not bother to ask him why he had said that or if he was referring to anyone in particular which would have given them the right context of what he said. It was hard for internet users to empathize with Jean Michel since people did not understand the context of his story.

Empathy towards evil actions could be easily attained if we can change our usual approach to viewing people’s actions. We would better empathize with people if we tried to understand their motives, environments and their general nature first before we jump to conclusions. This approach is the key to real empathy.

Work cited:

Adam, Morton. “Empathy for the devil.”  Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, Oxford; New York; 2011.

Formosa, Paul. “Understanding Evil Acts.” Human Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007., pp. 57-77doi:10.1007/s10746-007-9052-y.

Gary Small. Gigi Vorgan. “Is the internet killing empathy”, Special to CNN February 18, 2011 http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/18/small.vorgan.internet.empathy/

To kill a Mocking Bird. Directed by Robert Mulligan.                                                       Universal Pictures.1962

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Springfield, Mass, 2010.

Tanya Garcia. “Rwandan Debaters focus on empowering the youth”. Pepperdine University Graphic, September 26, 2015

Interaction design Foundation  https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/empathic-design-is-empathy-the-ux-holy-grail

We must understand before we judge: https://twitter.com/gregmortenson/status/698414846753124353

Cruelty: http://izquotes.com/quote/93971

Links to my blog sequence:

Asking Why: http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/20/blog-post-4-2/

Technology puts empathy at risk: http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/24/ttechnology-puts-our-humanity-empathy-at-risk/

Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him: http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/27/does-atticus-finch-change-and-if-yes-how-does-his-daughter-forgive-him/

 

 

Introduction to my blog posts sequence

The topic I am discussing in this blog sequence is empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feeling of another. The arousal of empathy can be seen in every aspect of life. This leaves us a question: Is empathy missing in some certain circumstances? If so, why is it missing? My aim in this post sequence is to use three posts of mine to answer this question.

Blog Post 1: Disagreement about Adam Morton’s theory

Adam Morton has a pessimistic view on people’s ability to empathize with evildoers. He expresses this view in his work Empathy for the Devil. Morton believes that people can only “pseudo empathize” with evildoers (327), which means that people cannot truly empathize with them. My aim in this post is to examine if our empathy is missing for those evildoers by expressing my opinion about Adam Morton’s theory. Morton says that one finds it difficult to understand how evildoers could overcome the barrier of his or her ethical value and actually commit the atrocious act, and therefore people do not usually try to empathize with evil. Otherwise, all they can feel toward evildoer is “pseudo empathy”, which is a sense of empathy that is not real. My point is that people can easily understand the “how” question for some certain types of evildoers when they take the evildoers’ circumstances when they committed the atrocious act into consideration and it will all come clear. So people can sometime empathize with evil. My way of proving my point is to use another scholarly source. The source I use is from Paul Formosa’s “Understanding Evil Acts”. In his article, Formosa states that many normal people, with no tendency of committing evil acts, are capable of doing atrocious acts in certain extreme circumstances. He gives an example of Milgram experiment, in which the object is being put into a compulsive environment. Most of the objects do atrocious act towards other innocent person in the experiment as they are told to. Formosa uses this result to prove that some evildoers do not have that “how” process, all they need to commit evil acts is an “evil-encouraging” environment. That being said, some evildoers do not have their mercurial motivation. Hence, we can empathize with some evildoers and not have to worry about being not able to truly empathize with them. From this post, we can see that the empathy is not missing in the process when we examine some people who commit atrocious acts.

 

Blog Post 2: Why is empathy missing in the digital age

Although we can empathize even with devil, sometimes people in certain circumstances stop empathizing with other normal people. This lack of empathy can be seen in the Internet. In my second blog post, I discuss the reason that people appear to be cruel to others on the Internet. The answer to this question is that when making comment online, people stop viewing others as human beings, and thus they stop empathizing with the object of their comments. I found an example of this phenomenon to start with. The example is about a 17-year-old Belgian model being viciously attacked by people on the Internet because of a Facebook status she posted in 2014. She posted a photo of her holding a rifle next to a dead animal, and made a harmless joke about it, which irritated other Facebook users, and they started to harshly criticize her over the social media. This incident got her lost her contract with L’Oreal. I find several sources to help me explain this phenomenon. I use an article on BBC news called “Why are people so mean to each other online?” written by Jane Wakefield. She attributes this phenomenon to the fact that Internet users do not consider other users as real human beings and they feel safe making those comments hiding behind the computer screen instead of in front of their subjects (Wakefield). Then I use Leon Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory to interpret those users’ behavior. In this case people engage in cognitive dissonance process to eliminate the feeling that the victim of their criticism is one of their own kind, and thus they hardly feel guilty for their acts. After we have analyzed those people’s circumstance and emotional process, we can see that is not too hard to understand their cruelty on the Internet. We can see in this post, when people are interacting with others in some virtual way, like the Internet, they stop empathizing with others because they lose the senses of likelihood between them and other Internet users. In such circumstance, empathy is missing.

Blog Post 3: Explanation for Jean Louise’s response

The characters in the literature works are perfect examples to use in this discussion. Some fictional scenario reflects real life situation perfectly. In some fictional works, certain character finds him or herself in a situation where it is hard to empathize with others. In my third blog post, I examine the reaction of Jean Louise, a character in the novel Go Set a Watchman. After finding the fact that her father is a racist, Jean feels extreme anger toward her father, Atticus Finch. At this point, her empathy for her father is missing, and she does not understand her father’s intension for doing all the thing he does. And this is because she does not think of herself as being in a same group as her father, which is also a kind of lack in the sense of likelihood. However, when Jean has a talk with her uncle, Dr. Finch, her anger subsides dramatically. From her uncle, we can see that she used to look up to her father. Hence we can understand her reason to feel angry with her father and her reason to think of herself as an adversary of her father. Then when Dr. Finch tells her “you are your own person now” (Go Set a Watchman 264), She has less expectation for her father, so she does not feel furious anymore, and stops considering herself as an enemy of her father. Her change is obvious in the text. After the talk, Jean realizes that Atticus was trying to preserve her world for her, and she has been trying to crush him for that (Go Set a Watchman 277). Her missing empathy is recovered because she starts recognizing herself as a person from a same community as her father.

From my three posts above, we can see that when empathy is missing in some scenarios, it is usually caused by the lack of the sense of likelihood. As Frans de Waal mentions in his article “Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy”, “Our evolutionary background makes it hard to identify with outsiders. We’ve evolved to hate our enemies, to ignore people we barely know, and to distrust anybody who doesn’t look like us (Frans de Waal).” He also mentions that empathy is so “fragile” that once we stop identify with others, we can no longer empathize with them (Frans de Waal). The Internet users who are cruel to others have no empathy for other people on the Internet because the victims are considered “outsiders”. The attackers stop identify with their victims, so their empathy is missing for them. Jean Louise has no empathy towards her father at the beginning because he is considered as an “outsider”. Therefore, the posts proves my answer to the question.

 

Works cited:

Morton, Adam. “Empathy For The Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives, edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie, Oxford University Press, 2011, 318-330.

Formosa, Paul. “Understanding Evil Acts.” Human Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007., pp. 57-77

Despiegelaere, Axelle. Facebook.com/AxelleDespiegelaere, Facebook, Jul 1 2014.

“L’Oreal Severs Ties With Viral World Cup Model After Crass Hunting Photo Emerges”, Business Insider, 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/loreal-fires-model-axelle-despiegelaere-after-hunting-photo-2014-7. Accessed Oct 24 2016.

Wakefield, Jane. “Why are people so mean to each other online?” BBC Technology, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-31749753. Accessed Oct 24 2016.

Festinger, Leon. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, California: Stanford University Press, 1957.

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman, HarperCollins, 2015

de Waal, FBM. “Putting the Altruism Back into Altruism: The Evolution of Empathy.” ANNUAL REVIEW OF PSYCHOLOGY, vol. 59, no. 1, 2008., pp. 279-300doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093625.

WHAT DOES TAKE TO EMPATHIZE WITH ACTIONS WE ABHOR?

 

The question of what we really need to empathize with actions we tend to dislike has been debated about for a long time. Different people have different opinions about it. Using a sequence of three blogs “Asking why, Technology puts empathy at risk and Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him?” and an essay by Formosa, I will explain that we need a general understanding and acceptance of human nature and their different contexts in which they act to really empathize with them. In “Asking why” I will explain that we need to understand the motives and environment of the evil doer in order to empathize with them. I will use both “Technology puts empathy at risk and Does Atticus Finch change and how does his daughter forgive him” as my examples to show that understanding the context and the true human nature both combined is what leads to real empathy. I will then conclude that the grasp of the actions’ context and the nature of humans gives us the right angle to view the world from.

In “Asking why”, I summarize Morton’s argument of why people find it hard to empathize with atrocious actions and I explain the method he offers of how to make it easier to empathize with evil. Morton’s argument is that because people have an “internalized code of conduct” that normally prevents them to do evil actions themselves, they find it hard to empathize with evil actions. Morton explains that the same “code of conduct” creates an “empathetic barrier in them which they would need to overcome to empathize with other people. I agree with Morton’s point on why we find it hard to empathize with evil actions- we have an internal code of conduct. However, I disagree with the method Morton proposes of what we need to understand about the evil actions to empathize with the performer of the action. I will only explain my point of view but not Morton’s since mine is the one relevant in this paper. (if you want to read Morton’s http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/20/blog-post-4-2/). I argue that understanding why a person did an atrocious action gives us just enough context to overcome the empathetic barrier. What I mean by context is the right motives behind a person’s actions and the influence their environment might have had on their actions. Understanding why a person performed an action removes the empathetic barrier and it gives us the first prerequisite to empathizing with actions we find evil. The second prerequisite is to understand the true human nature which is that people change and there is no saint in any of us. No matter how good a person might be, they sometimes do bad things. Also, even though people do bad things sometimes, it doesn’t follow that they are entirely bad.  We all do bad things maybe not of the same intensity but we all do a certain level of good and evil. Therefore, we should not have big expectations of the goodness or evilness of anyone.

In the movie to kill a mocking Bird, Scout (the nick name of Jean Louise) is a young girl who grows up looking up to her father Atticus because he was an amazing man. Atticus’s goodness in the movie is shown by his willingness to defend Tom (a black man) accused of raping a white girl. Since Atticus defends Tom even though he is a black man, we are given reasons to think that Atticus believed in human equality and despised discrimination against black people. However, Atticus later changes into a racist man (in Go set a watchman). When Jean Louise finds out that her dad turned to be racist, she is very disappointed in her father that she decides to leave her home town. The very first problem that she meets that makes it hard to empathize with her father is her “inner code of conduct” (as Morton explains). She believes that all human beings are equal. This belief of hers makes them hard to understand how anyone most especially her father (who used to be good) could be racist. The way Jean Louise is able to empathize with her father is that her father explained to her that he joined the council because he believes that black people in that society are “backwards” and hence should not be allowed to rule or vote for their ignorance (Harper, 246-247). This conversation makes Jean Louise understand her dad’s motive to join the council. Jean Louise is also able to understand that almost every white person in Maycomb was racist at the time. Considering the fact that the racist council was made of most of the influential people. This makes her understand the “context” (his reasons and his environment) that is attached to her father’s story. After understanding that, she also realizes that she took her dad to be a “God” who can’t do anything wrong- she had always expected him to be perfect as her uncle Jack explains to her (Harper) . By grasping the context in which her father acted and the very nature of any human being as I explained in the first paragraph, Jean Louise understands that she had been quick to judge her father without considering those factors. By understanding this, she is able to overcome her “inner empathetic barrier” and she decides not to leave her town.

Another example that illustrates my argument is the example in blog post five about Jean Michel Habineza who is accused of insulting Rwandan leaders. During a debate, Jean Michel tried to compare the politics in the united states and politics in Africa where he made a point that African leaders should have more preparation towards their careers because currently in Africa “ People move from fighting in the bush to being presidents the next day”. Rwandans started media shaming him that he has insulted Rwanda and her leaders. But if we think about it, he had never mentioned any specific country in Africa nor did he say that he was talking about Rwanda specifically. The use of internet hence had robbed the Rwandan people, the right context in which Jean Michel was saying what he said. People did not bother to ask him why he had said that or if he was referring to anyone in particular which would have given them the right context we need to understand people. It was hard for internet users to empathize with Jean Michel since people did not understand the context of his what his story. Formosa Paul in his essay “Understanding evil acts” supports my point of view in this paper. He explains that we are often unable to empathize with evil because we are “puzzled by it”. He explains that we tend to find evil very unusual and surprising and against our normal way of behaving. He then explains that understanding why people do evil things gives us their motives and hence an understanding of their context and point of view. The source I use in (Jean Michel’s) explains that we also need to understand the nature of people. He explains that we tend to have a sense of denial and detachment towards bad things that happen to people. We tell ourselves “it can happen to us”. This shows that the moment we think someone did something bad, we tend to forget the nature of our own selves. We forget that we all are capable of both evil and good hence we should not jump to conclusions without fully understanding the context in which things happen or the fact that all people do some bad at a certain point in their lives.

Work cited:

Adam, Morton. “Empathy for the devil.”  Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, Oxford; New York; 2011.

Formosa, Paul. “Understanding Evil Acts.” Human Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007., pp. 57-77doi:10.1007/s10746-007-9052-y.

Gary Small. Gigi Vorgan. “Is the internet killing empathy”, Special to CNN February 18, 2011 http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/18/small.vorgan.internet.empathy/

To kill a Mocking Bird. Directed by Robert Mulligan.

Universal Pictures.1962

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limitations of Empathy

Empathy is a powerful force, a force that leads us to understanding, a force that sometimes helps us to forgive and acquit, a force that encourages us to pursue the justice and a force that can make changes in the law. We encounter acts of empathy every day, however, sometimes we overlook the limits that are connected with it, the limits that sometimes decide the fate of a person’s or group of people’s life or career. All of this raises the question: what are the limitations of empathy and why and when do they occur? I believe that limitations of empathy are caused by lack of connection and identification, lack of accurate empathy and in modern day, lack of real life communication.

From my perspective, the capacity of empathize fully depends on empathizers ability to identify with the person being empathized. Tim Gauthier, in his article “’Selective in your mercies’: privilege, vulnerability, and the limits of empathy in Ian McEwan’s Saturday,” provides us with his idea about what causes people’s selectiveness in empathy. According to Tim, “one is likely to choose the proximal and recognizable as objects of empathy and turn away from the remote and the unfamiliar” (Gauthier). Hence, in order to be able to empathize with a person, we need some kind of connection that will help us put ourselves in that person’s shoe and to identify ourselves with him or her.

Empathy and Connection

Empathy and Connection

The lack of identification and connection in Ian McEwan’s novel that Gauthier addresses is a common practice in literature. One of the most popular paradigms of this phenomenon in literature is the loss of the connection between Jean Louise and her father in Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman,” which led to the lack of empathy that Jean experiences. The post “Empathy and Connection: What Lead to Lack of Empathy in Go Set a Watchman” addresses the question whether Atticus changed from one novel to another and further analyses how the new face of Atticus led to not only a lack of empathy, but to a complete lack of understanding between him and his daughter. According to the post, even though most of the readers believe that Atticus has changed from the old Atticus whom we all loved in the movie and novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the reality is that Atticus has never changed. According to the post, we have been presented with two inaccurate and radically different faces of Atticus Finch that were based on Jean Louise’s view of her father. At first, she viewed her father as a paragon of a kind and honorable man. However, in the later novel, she views him as an evil person and even compares him to Hitler. The question is: what is the reason behind sudden lack of understanding and lack of empathy towards her father that Jean Louise experiences? According to the post, all the years that Jean spent in New York led to the loss of her connection with her father and the city of Maycomb in general; suddenly everything looked strange and unfamiliar to her. The loss of identification with her father and with her city eventually led Jean to experience a lack of understanding and a lack of empathy.

In Jean Louise’s case, it is clear – the lack of empathy was caused by the loss of connection, which by itself was caused by her living in New York, far away from her father and the city of Maycomb. However, there are some cases where, even though a connection is present, understanding and thus empathy is still limited or even lacking. In order to understand why empathy is lacking in such cases, we need a deeper understanding of different types of empathy and we need to find an accurate one that will prevent us from being selective in our empathy. Friedrich Nietzsche, in his book Daybreak, links empathy with some form of inner imitation: “Empathy – To understand another person, that is to imitate his feelings in ourselves, we … produce the feeling in ourselves after the effects it exerts and displays on the other person by imitating with our own body the expression of his eyes, his voice, his walk, his bearing” (Nietzsche, 142). Today, the phenomenon of inner imitation described by Friedrich is regarded as mirroring. Remy Debes, in his article, “Which empathy? Limitations in the mirrored ‘understanding’ of emotion,” uses phenomenon of mirroring to display the psychological reasons behind the lack of understanding and empathy. According to Remy, even though mirroring is the key to understanding, it is only a “simplistic version of recognition” (Debes, 236). In other words, in order to fully understand a person, just imitating his or her feelings is not enough. We need to actually feel the other person’s feelings.

Accurate Empathy

Accurate Empathy

The importance of actually feeling the other person’s feelings and using an accurate empathy is more palpable when it comes to empathizing with those who did atrocious acts. Most of the time, there is a lack of understanding towards perpetuators. Thus, to overcome the limitation, we need an accurate empathetic emotion. The post, “The Accurate Empathy: Limitations of Empathy in Adam Morton ‘Empathy for The Devil,’” addresses the question of how distinguishing between imitating other person’s feelings and actually experiencing them might help us to overcome the limitations of empathy, and how to apply it towards those who did evil, atrocious acts. The post states that the key to understanding and empathizing is using self-oriented rather than other-oriented empathy. According to the post, self-oriented empathy is adjusting other person’s position to ourselves and applying our own background and feelings towards the situation, rather than taking that person’s perspective with their feelings and backgrounds. The post provides MJ Banissy’s and Philip L Jackson’s arguments about how and why self-oriented empathy leads to greater understanding than other-oriented empathy. Furthermore, it underlines Adam Morton’s perspective on the limitation of the empathy to understand those who did evil acts. The post displays Morton’s “why versus how” problem, which illustrates that the lack of empathy towards perpetuators is due to lack of understanding of why a person did that particular act, out of all of the options, rather than just understanding why a person committed the atrocity. Therefore, as revealed by the post, the limitation of empathy towards a perpetuator arises when there is a lack of understanding of how a person overcame the barrier and did the atrocity, which occurs when we use inaccurate, other-oriented, empathy.

Usage of inaccurate empathetic emotion and lack of connection both lead to a lack of empathy in real life situations. However, in modern day, with the rising age of technology, we experience even more lack of empathy in virtual life, which raises the question: what is the reason behind the extreme limitation of empathy in social media and internet? The post “Empathy, Internet and Social Media” addresses the question as to why the lack of empathy arises among internet users and users of social media.

Limitation of Empathy in Digital Age

Limitation of Empathy in Digital Age

According to the post, the lack of empathy in digital age, as revealed by Christopher Terry, is due to anonymity, asynchronicity and lack of face-to-face presence. According to the post, the internet gives users a chance to possess an alternative identity that frees them from need of expressing any kind of empathy towards other users. Moreover, due to lack of immediate response, users are more likely to be critical and are more likely to lack the understanding of other’s actions and emotions. Finally, lack of face-to-face presence undermines any kind of non-verbal communication, which plays a huge role in real life empathy. Furthermore, it presents real life examples of how the upper mentioned reasons led to the lack of empathy and eventually led to the firing of a person. Therefore, as revealed by the post, with a rising digital age, the limitations of empathy arise as well and become more significant.

Understanding different reasons behind the limitations of empathy, we can conclude that in order to empathize, we need a connection and an identification with a person, we need to use an accurate empathetic emotion in order understand how a person committed an atrocity and we need to rely less on the effects of social media and internet when communicating. All of this will help us overcome the limitations of empathy and will help us to be less selective with our empathy.

Work Cited:

  • Nietzsche, Friedrich W., Maudemarie Clark, and Brian Leiter. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, Cambridge University Press, New York; Cambridge, U.K, 1997.
  • Debes, Remy. “Which Empathy? Limitations in the Mirrored “Understanding” of Emotion.”Synthese, vol. 175, no. 2, 2010; 2009, pp. 219-239.
  • Gauthier, Tim. “”Selective in Your Mercies”: Privilege, Vulnerability, and the Limits of Empathy in Ian McEwan’s Saturday.”College Literature, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013., pp. 7-30

Image Sources:

Empathy: The Guarantee of Rationality.

Empathy has been widely acknowledged as a certain kind of attitude generated from the inside of ourselves toward other human beings on some issues in our daily life. It has been a long time since scholars and researchers first introduced this concept, yet no precise definition can be drawn on this broad attitude. Though we may not able to write down a specific and Omni-agreed definition on empathy just like other laws had been written on the codex, we still apply this attitude smoothly and unconsciously in multiple aspects. However, we’ve found out that empathy mostly plays its role under circumstances in which people’s opinions are somehow biased, and I would conclude its role in such scenarios is to keep us rational. In this introduction to my blog series, I will state my own understanding toward empathy and then focus on two specific cases in which lacking of empathy makes us irrational on decision-making and,of course, proper empathy keeps us rational on decision-making.

In my very first post of this blog post sequence, I summarized an essay written by Adam Morton about his version of definition on empathy.By doing this I aimed to point out this kind of interpretation of empathy could not be applied in our daily life so I provide my version of interpretation instead. Douglas Hollan raised his definition of empathy in his book The Definition and Morality of Empathy which I consider to be the most thorough one among others’. Hollan states that understanding the reasons and motives for a person to perform an act is the most essential thing we have to do to empathize with him or her(Hollan). I incorporate Hollan’s definition with my own understanding of empathy to conclude that in order to be considered having empathy in a person, all we have to do is to try to consider based on his or her logic and to adopt his initial motivation to perform an act. To show this, I summarized an article written by Adam Morton and pointed some flaws in his version of definition on empathy in my post.From my analysis, Morton’s definition of empathy is too narrow and specific which makes the ideas he further proposed in his article seem to be vague and distorted. While Morton’s version of empathy makes sense only in scenarios he has set in his article, I’d say Hollan’s version of empathy is more likely to be the one that we apply in our daily life. (Blog Post 4 link provided below.)

(Does Morton raise a right definition of empathy?
http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/20/3052/)

The first case I want to analyze happens in today’s virtual world, and it’s a great example to show how lacking of empathy can blindfold our eyes of rationality. The 21st century is also known as the digital age,while in which the bloom of social media platforms has made everything more accessible than before, it makes everything more intense as well. When I try to analyze how empathy plays its role on the Internet in my blog post 5, I found that the anonymity and the lack of non-verbal information we have on other people have made us more aggressive and possess less empathy toward other people online. I raised an example about the massive attacks toward a Korean pop star who claimed she gained her success all through her own talent but was proved later that she actually achieved her success through taking some advantage of plastic surgery(Guancha.cn). The outburst of attack was not actually due to her faking success, but because people feel conceived, and thus feel like being hurt and they have to fight back. Once people’s empathy level has gone down to this point, they would make surmise about the subject due to the lack of further profile about the subject which generally misleads them to consider the subject as vicious, thus comes the aggressive attacks. So the role of empathy online is to make sure that we are reasonable and rational to make decisions, while from this example I conclude that lacking empathy and understanding toward others can be devastating online. (Blog Post 5 link posted below)

(We tend to be more outrageous when we’re online.
http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/10/25/we-tend-to-be-more-outrageous-when-were-online/)

In my blog post 6,I focus on two of Harper Lee’s novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman to analyze how empathy keeps the main character rational toward a biased issue. Many say that Harper Lee portrays a righteous character Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird to demonstrate the empathy for the Black and the opposing voice for racial segregation, but they fail to find a consistent Atticus Finch in Go Set a Watchman(TKM). The main idea is that Atticus has changed into a racist because he states some prejudicial expressions about the Black, like “backward” and “sub-people”, and refuses to let them acquire certain rights that the White has(GSW). My understanding is that though Atticus’s attitude on the Black seems to be changed drastically, his empathy towards them makes him decide rationally every time so Atticus hasn’t changed at all. The empathy that Atticus possesses in To Kill a Mockingbird encourages him to hold a righteous standpoint to defend for an African-American, because he understands how unfair it was for an innocent person stuck in a biased situation like that so he felt like defending for him was a rational choice(TKM). And the empathy that Atticus possesses in Go Set a Watchman enables him to take the position that his daughter may not understand because he understands that keeping the Black from things they were not yet capable of managing was the rational choice which brings real benefits to everybody. So from this case I conclude empathy makes us overcome the biases and make our decisions rationally. (Blog Post 6 link provided below)

(Atticus Always Stays the Same.http://blogs.rochester.edu/feelinggood2/2016/11/03/empathy-understanding-makes-us-rational/)

Overall I adopt Douglas Hollan’s definition of empathy to consider different scenarios. My analysis through out my posts demonstrates that empathy enables us to know reasons and motives for a person to do a thing and be able to feel how he or she feels so that we can understand the situation better, which allows us to overcome certain biases inside the scenarios to rationally make decisions every time.

 

Work Cited:

 

Hollan, Douglas. “The Definition and Morality of Empathy.” EMOTION REVIEW, Jan 2012,vol. 4, no. 1, 2012., pp. 83-83 doi:10.1177/1754073911421396.

 

“South Korean Pop Star Nose Collapse.,The Watcher a,
2016,www.guancha.cn/broken-news/2016_08_25_372437.shtml, Accessed 24,Oct 2016.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird, Directed by Robert Mulligan, Performances by George Peck,Mary Badham,Phillip Alford, Universal International, 1962.

 

Lee, Harper. Go Set a Watchman: A Novel, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, NY, 2015. 236-253.