Empathy and Altruism: From Possibility to Implementation

The argument of today’s conversation is that empathy is required in order to get from the possibility of altruism to its implementation. A logical space is available to establish a link between empathy and the austere ethics of duty (“deontology”). This is needed to avoid sinking into the morass of moral sentiments (shame, guilt, benevolence, compassion), which are powerful motivators of behavior but logically dubious foundations of it. The interest of the others in the world and my own interest are in balance. It is not that the world comes ahead of my own – which, arguably, would look like utilitarianism and the greatest good of the greatest number. We are not looking at consequences. Rather we are looking formally and logically at the priority of my own interest over against that of the world, and it does not have any more priority. But it does not necessarily have any less, for the majority of the world would not be justified in inflicting pain on me even if it resulted in their greater good. “Act so as to reduce the pain in the world.” Yes, I should so act. But how do I know the other is in pain? In any particular situation, altruism without empathy is like a concept without intuition. Empathy provides the implementation of the possibility of altruism. How do I know the other is in pain on this particular, objective occasion? The answer is empathy. Please give me the benefit of your comments, feedback, impertinent remarks, criticisms, and penetrating feedback on the attached: CH07EmpathyandAltruism20081218 All signed and authenticated comments will be credited in the subsequent publication (assuming there is one!).

Categories: Altruism, Empathy, Ethics, Hermeneutics, Philosophy, talk therapy

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