False advertising, Kevin! I only clicked on this post because you used the thumbnail of the blonde who cant find her bra. God bless her. Then I scroll down to read that you've gone to the dark side and are having empathy for the minions of the DMV's car tax scam? Boo.
I kid, I kid! I actually enjoyed reading this post. However, I have to say I'm still skeptical. I think I understand what you are getting at, but as you said that there was no rhyme or reason for all this mental negativity you were bouncing around in your head, aren't the examples you gave really just a swing of the pendulum in the other direction... optimistic projections? Which also have no rhyme or reason to them?
Is it not true that in actuality we have no basis of knowing the motivations of others evincing the behavior we find objectionable or annoying? We can always *imagine* a variety of possible explanations, some of which may align more closely with what we perceive our own experiences to be, but we don't have any way of knowing that those explanations are actually correct. I think in many practical applications of this kind of empathy, because it isn't based on an exchange of information, it would more likely be a concoction of the imagination rather than a perception of reality.
I totally get where you're coming from though. I have those negative thoughts in my mind too.
You see what I did there? Now, is it because I'm an argumentative asshole, or did I just have a bad day?
Damn...I can't stop.
@JohnLindquist Since you didn't pay me for the full argument, I'll give you half an argument! We can't know exactly what people's motivations are, but everything they are expressing is trying to meet some need, and we all have the same needs as humans. So, let's take a conflict. Someone says to you "You're an uncaring narcissistic asshole because you're against taxes!" You could take this and hit him right back by calling him another name.
But how does this help anyone or resolve anything? He calls you an asshole and you call him a dickhead, and everyone leaves angry.
An empathetic approach would be to first, step back for a second. This guy is expressing some anger from something in his past, not you. We know this because you didn't physically threaten him, it was just some words, but you can still connect with him as a human despite his expression of anger.
So after taking a step back and not taking it personally (not the easiest thing), you could ask him "It sounds like you're feeling angry because you see my position as harmful to others, and you value helping people?" Then he might feel heard and understood, if not, he will correct you and you can have a conversation from there instead of an unproductive argument.
So it's more than just a concoction of imagination or "the power of positve thinking". It's actually getting to the root of emotions rather than just knee-jerk reacting to them.
Unless you paid him to argue. Then you should ask for a refund! :)
so it seems to me that you've clarified that you cannot *truly* apply
empathy randomly to strangers, as it requires a conversation and
exchange of information to be accurate. It appears to rely on a
meaningful and substantial dialogue, that includes an honest disclosure
of the empathy target's actual beliefs and experiences and possibly the
emotions attached to those things. Thus it seems to me that empathy's
utility is in its ability to serve as a strategic tool rather than a
general outlook or philosophy.
Also, not to keep arguing past my time limit, but I don't agree that we all have the same needs as humans or that what people express is just trying to meet one of those needs. Sure, at some very basic level of physical or emotional "wants and needs" as Maslow has defined it, we are all very similar. However, that's just kind of the surface stuff; we may never be able to know why some people do the things they do or say the things they say or have the beliefs that they hold, and there might not be a rational explanation for their expressions or behavior. There are people that are beyond comprehension or are so difficult to communicate with that no meaningful dialogue or exchange of reliable information is possible.
From a philosophical perspective it seems this is a bit of a logic trap. I'm not even sure what empathy really means or if we are using the term properly, now that I have looked into it. I checked Wikipedia and discovered it has conflicting definitions: "Empathy is the ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions, and direct experience of others."
Yet another Wikipedia entry states "Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being."
These are two completely different things.
you use the first definition, you'd have to invent a faculty that
doesn't exist, but I imagine it would be akin to the abilities of the
"empath" Counselor Troi on Star Trek: Next Generation. The second
definition seems a little bit more within the realm of human ability
although I'm not too sure about the fictional part. Again, that would
seem to involve projection since if the empathy target is fictional then
it doesn't actually exist. Its just a concoction of the imagination
and exists only in the mind of the subject being asked to be empathic.
Wow...philosophy is exhausting. I need a nap.