The title statement echoes Freud’s celebrated slogan “Where id was, ego shall be!” Neither of these statements is an “either or” proposition. Freud did not propose to replace the id with the ego. It is not even clear what that could possibly mean. The idea is to expand the influence, control, and power of the second term over the first one. The ego expands its power; likewise, with empathy.
In time of war, the power of empathy consists in putting yourself in the shoes of the enemy, thinking like the enemy, and thereby anticipating and thwarting the enemy’s moves.
Testing a person’s decisions and preferences using probabilities, bets, and lotteries is an engaging exercise, and nothing is wrong in doing so. However, unless one also adds empathy to the mixture of economics and logic one misses something essential—the person!
Since the bullying is a boundary violation, the way to reestablish empathy and order (where “order” means common courtesy) is to reestablish the boundary between persons.
One does not need a philosopher to tell one what empathy is. What then does one need? How about a folktale, a fairy tale, a Märchen? Rather than start with a definition of empathy, my proposal is to start by telling a couple of stories, in which empathy (and its breakdown) plays a crucial role. Both stories are anonymous folktales from the collection edited by the Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The distilled wisdom of the ages accumulated in traditional anonymous narratives will do nicely. Now available to listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6pCIwUknKqxZwIqau0m1YW
Clohesy’s big idea is that empathy is about identity and similarity, but it is just as fundamentally about differences. Key term: empathy of differences. This provides a powerful angle on that vexing issue of empathy and ethics, which has the frustrating aspect of being a chicken and egg dilemma.
Empathy means being firm but flexible about boundaries. The most empathic people that I know are also the strongest and most assertive regarding respect for boundaries. Being empathic does not mean being a push over. You wouldn’t want to mess with them. Where such people show up, empathy lives—shame and bullying have no place.
Empathy flourishes in a space of acceptance and tolerance. But acceptance and tolerance have their dark side, too. People can be intolerant and unaccepting. Be accepting of what? Be accepting of intolerance? Be tolerant of intolerance? Yes, be tolerant, but… Read More ›