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Discussion 3 on Reflections on Ethics 3
On Empathy

by Thomas

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Radu says, on empathy:

"The absolute truth is to love other people more than you love yourself. This is the way you can become happy."

Gabriel says,

This sounds suspiciously like self-delusion to me. A pithy quote would be appropriate:

"We are here on Earth to do good to others. What the others are here for, I don't know." - W. H. Auden

Most spiritual philosophy is an attempt at truth - the older the myth the less sophisticated the accompanying spiritual philosophy.

It is a valid idea in concept - but could it be called absolute? It is obviously false. For if you love someone greater; then you love yourself less; this is a negative message; a good test for the validity of all spiritual messages; negativity within love messages.

Equal would make more sense than more. And a qualifying statement is to who those others are would help! And what kind of love are we talking about here exactly? And to what extent must we extend ourselves? And when is just feeling this love-fest superior to action? And when can action upon it therefore cease? And while I am not hurting my lazy neighbor who never picks up his dogs doo-doo droppings, or cuts the grass in his yard, must I love him, is not indifference at this point more appropriate than love?

This seems more like a conundrum; rather than guidance; and loving myself less will not make me happy; nor could it be considered “the way,” or “a way.” 

A less absolute, probably already conceived of idea is:

Consideration: consider others when talking action, it might effect even you, people you love, people you know. In the end it helps to consider: Love the farthest, that which in paradox you might not love, that which has even been called “the enemy”; consider equality; that another is equal in value to yourself. Is this empathy? Or is it in spirit a philosophy above emoting. In concept this love might actually be respect; and not empathy.

I tend to agree with Gabriel on the delusional aspect of empathy. On the use of the term “absolute”; this seems to strengthen the idea of self-delusion. And consider the definitions found in a few dictionaries.  The second definition is a statement that appears to be the exact opposite of empathy; you're not feeling their emotive state; you are feeling yours(!) and projecting that on the “others”; which is as unsophisticated as: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Which is fine unless your do unto tastes are completely different than the others do unto tastes.


Dictionary definition:


1.) Direct identification with, understanding of, and vicarious experience of another person's situation, feelings, and motives.

2.) The projection of one's own feelings or emotional state onto an object or animal.

3.) The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it

4.) The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for empathy