Empathy?
Posted: 30 July 2012 09:34 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Why do we experience empathy, or better, why do we care for causes/people which will never have any effect/influence in/on our life?
For example, why do we care about other species which by themself dont understand the concept and will never be able to “pay” us back?

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Posted: 30 July 2012 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Alexander80 - 30 July 2012 09:34 AM

Why do we experience empathy, or better, why do we care for causes/people which will never have any effect/influence in/on our life?
For example, why do we care about other species which by themself dont understand the concept and will never be able to “pay” us back?

You mean biologically or evolutionarily speaking why do we have this trait? It’s probably a spandrel: that is, an offshoot of our kin- and reciprocal-based altruistic traits. But that’s just speculation.

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Posted: 30 July 2012 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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A complex topic. Although Doug is right saying that this behaviour can be probably explained as a spandler, there are differences in how individuals and groups feel about helping and judging others. Liberals feel that everybody deserves out help, conservatives think that we ought to help those in our group before the rest (e.g., supporting the soldiers), and this help should be based on what those in need “deserve.”

People are also willing to favour those individuals who need help when they are the same race, even though it’s debatable if this is a result of kin selection. A lot of these differences can be explained through various adaptations, but the field of evelitionary psychology is young and it is therefore perhaps too soon to jump into any definitive conclusions. What is exciting, though, is that scientists finally seem to be on the right track.

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Posted: 30 July 2012 10:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Also, I am not sure what this is doing in the philosophy forum. Kant, Plato, Hume and others had their try and got us nowhere. It’s time to use the only tool that works to find out what is really going on here, and that tool is obviously science.

[ Edited: 30 July 2012 10:26 AM by George ]
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Posted: 30 July 2012 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I thoufght about putting it in the science forum. but then i changed my mind, cause i didnt want to put a topic so uncertain under science, and so i put here.

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Posted: 30 July 2012 03:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I wonder if if would be a better fit in the Humanism Forum.

Although it’s hard to identify empathy in other animals, someone sent me a series of photographs showing a female bird which had been hit by a car and was dying or dead.  All of the things its mate did in the series of pictures were heart-rending and obviously demonstrated empathy.

Social animals sometimes seem to show empathy or caring for other members of their group.  We could possibly guess that it’s genetic or at least has a genetic component, however, we see people all across the spectrum - from those who will even carry a spider out of their house rather than killing it; to the sociopaths who seem to enjoy causing pain to everyone and every living thing. 

Unfortunately, none of the above answers the question of “why?”. 

I feel better about myself when I help others, and feel worse if I happen to hurt someone or something.  But, I don’t know why. 

And, most annoying is that I often don’t KNOW what they need or don’t want.  That’s the empathy part.

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Posted: 30 July 2012 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Alexander80 - 30 July 2012 09:34 AM

Why do we experience empathy, or better, why do we care for causes/people which will never have any effect/influence in/on our life?
For example, why do we care about other species which by themself dont understand the concept and will never be able to “pay” us back?

We are social creatures, born with mirror neurons and the biological capacity and imperative to learn verbal behavior as well as to become listeners.  A skill that we have as a listener, is to detect and respond to the verbal behavior of (ourselves and) others.  It seems to me that empathizing is a generalization or expansion of this skill (whether learned or innate or both) in which we imagine what the other is experiencing.

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“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

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Posted: 30 July 2012 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And as far as why we care…

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

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“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb… We are bound to others, past and present… And by each crime and every kindness… We birth our future.”  Sonmi, 2144.

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