This is interesting
First, I get the meaning of the article, I know the subject is not empathy. Also, Emma, I do not in any way want to diminish the message and meaning of the piece with which I agree.
Good, with that out of the way, that sentence gave me an itch and I had to scratch it. What do you mean there is no way for one to know what another is feeling?
I mean, isn’t it built in? We do have brain regions specifically built to mirror another’s internal lived experience into us so that we can get them, so that we can exactly feel what they feel.
Isn’t art a proof for shared feelings on common stimuli? From music to visual arts, from food to dance, we have collected in our civilised history mountains of descriptions on the experience (a.k.a. strings of connected feelings) given by art. And we have analysed them over and over and found themes, common traits in the reactions humans have to it.
Empathy. The beloved of peace makers. Doesn’t empathy mean:
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
If there is no way empathy exists, then how do you explain our humble hundred thousand years long survival as groups? We stick to each other, more so when the times are hard, closer when pain is shared or imminent, selectively when pleasure is shared or imminent, I mean, there really is a quite intricate web of ways in which we show outward the fact that we do share feelings of other humans around.
Not only that, we’re also eager to do it. Biologically we get amazing positive feedback for empathy, as anything from blood sugar, heart rate, blood pressure, endocrine secretion and many others are directly modulated positively following social interaction, but, do note, especially so social interaction where we empathise.
Aren’t manipulation and its younger hotter sister persuasion based on the fact that we do have ways to know how other people are feeling? Sure they are so.
We don’t need machine brain interfaces. we already have brain brain interfaces.
The article does a great job, just not this. I have seen this idea in many other situations dealing with political correctness subjects and it was a favourite weapon of the PC police.
We are not, as a species, islands. We don’t know everything another person is feeling, but the fact is we know enough if we try harder. And in fact this is even more shameful for those who deny the reality of others.
Those who deny the reality of others actually do it because they themselves live in denial of reality itself. It is reality that which mediates this sharing of feelings we call empathy.
And it is not only empathy as a way for one to know what another is feeling.
Empathy is biologic, and like any biologic aspect some people have more of it. Just like talent.
Compassion too is there to help. Compassion does not occur spontaneously, it is a side effect of an attempt to understand rationally the behaviour of another. It is when we feel like we understand the behaviour of others that we turn to compassion as a means of communication. Compassion is granting the humans around us the right to be themselves.
Sympathy is also a real thing. Sympathy though only appears when we share the experience of the humans around. Only once you have actually, viscerally experienced that which “the other” goes through you can display sympathy or act sympathetically.
So, we, like in we humans, I believe, should give up this idea that the basis of mutual respect is our inability to perceive one another, but exactly embrace the original idea that this is actually the foundation: our shared humanity, and shared brain structure, and shared smelly shit and sweat, and hairs in places we can’t tell, and pain in invisible places, and suffocating longing, and fear of loosing our sanity, and spinning sinking never ending inner turmoil, and joyous trembling of guts and hearts, and chocking tears of happiness, all these things we know about each other, which are a mile long list if ever enumerated, are the foundation of mutual respect.
If we’d only stop ignoring our shared humanity.
If we’d just stop being in denial of our own reality.
We fake empathy, compassion and sympathy everyday.
We fake empathy pretending to feel for the others, and actually invading their intimacy. We fake compassion pretending we know the others, and actually attacking their dignity. We fake sympathy, pretending we’ve worn their shoes, and actually stealing their identity.