Trials of empathy
An emphasis on complexity in Williams’ Tanner Lectures
Late yesterday, in a packed Paine Hall, Rowan Williams, the 104th
archbishop of Canterbury, gave the first of his Tanner Lectures on Human
Values — part of a traditional series delivered at nine or more
universities across the world since 1979.
With a complex critique of empathy, he quickly got into the spirit of
what philanthropist Obert Clark Tanner intended for the series he
founded: “a search,” Harvard President Drew Faust reminded the audience,
“for a better understanding of human behavior and human values.”
“I Have No Idea How You Feel”
“I FEEL YOUR PAIN,” then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton famously
declared in 1992, and empathy—coined from the German “Einfühlung,”
meaning “feeling into”—is a popular concept. Empathy entails compassion
and understanding, the taking of another’s problems as one’s own. Evil
itself, argued autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen, is a matter of
“empathy erosion,” the unwillingness or inability to understand the
plight of others. “Empathy is like a universal solvent,” he wrote inThe
Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty. “Any problem
immersed in empathy becomes soluble.”
Here is the video of Dr Rowan Williams' lecture entitled 'Ethics,
empathy and Imagination' that was delivered at the Global Network for
Public Theology Conference at Stellenbosch University on 24 October
2016. It is such a wonderful contribution to the current interest in
empathy in the scholarly discourse.
Can we truly enter into the experience and world of another person?
Why is empathy sometimes 'used' as a tool to achieve certain aims
(such as reconciliation, or social cohesion?
Are there not more theologically responsible ways to think about the
mystery and complexity of one's self and another?
What of deep solidarity, even when there isn't complete understanding
of the experience of another?
sacrifice - can be a form of violence - [maybe like Karen Armstrong,
need to dethrone your ego]
we will never know the other? - but can work towards it.
paradox at the heart of empathy that I am sketching is that the
empathy stance, puts into questionunderstanding
my own interiority.
Baron-Cohen argues extreme cruelty is lack
Baron-Cohen says empathy is the ability to read the emotional
state of another. If you don't do this, it leads to cruelty.
with low empathy are low in self awareness.
we can say
empathy is associated with irony and standing back from primary
paradox - an empathic response challenges emotional intensity rather
than just reinforcing it. Empathic understanding is grasping
something of my location in the center of others experiences, the
worlds of others. To learn a new level of scrutiny of myself and
environment. Learning to live in the world as an intelligent body,
example of anger which is in the body
read emotions from an early age. they don't' work it out mentally.
intelligence is not a leap of intuition from one soul to another. As
the skill of perspective. Bodies needing other bodies to interact
with it in order to know anything.
See it as
Empathic understanding - as perspective taking rather than
penetrating the others interior state of the others feelings.
Baron-Cohensays empathy is an under utilized
this view is
banal - if only people could see each others point of view. This is
not a panacea for human ills.
account of empathy will show how it mandates silence as well as
communication. Hesitation as well as engagement.
is impoverished with a focus on reason
danger of a
certain kind of empathy that leads to a merging and dissolution
call for a
sense of distance from each other
A story -
The power of
out over murder
Phenomenology of empathy
Edith Stein -
and Husserl (Aristotle)
touch is a
part of empathy - leads to merging
we find touch
(Phenomenology) the quality of empathy touch
and Merlo Ponte
moving around each other without end
Empathy as a
proper balance of connecting with each other.
being like them but also maintaining how I am unlike them.
Sometimes empathy needs to go more towards touch and taste.
Away from the distance. Maybe we have lost touch with each other.
of the other has to do with the security of myself. [if others know
they will be empathized with then I know I will be empathized with]
build with tactics like; excluding scapegoating, blame, etc. debase
security as empathy for all. A guaranteed voice
empathy into public policy
law is enough to protect against injustice or pain. law as violence
god? passionless of god
Q and A
statistical compassion? Near and far empathy?
far away are not in our touch range.
the idea that the way to deal with others suffering is we should
intensely suffer for that person. we fail when we don't produce
that. Or I can't bear any more pain.
looking at my inter involvement with the security of others
about a culture of empathy. With compassion fatigue the way to
address that is upstream empathy for the life of the sufferer, the
sufferer empathizing with others, and the community surrounding
the sufferer to empathize with them and the intention of
increasing empathy into the future. downstream empathy which will
help with possible downstream suffering. ]
of the sentimentality or distance.
the other is my business and I have to feel terrible about it,
suffer along, - eventually I'll get tired of that and back
away. detached. want to remain connection.
empathy and institutions
hands on compassion and distance compassion - narrative empathy
giving ground to ?
thinking in the theoretical realm versus in practice?
emotional identification - didn't work.
you are the
[imaginatively empathize - role play - with yourself, in the past,
the present and the future]]
is sayable should be hearable.
[we have the free speech movement, we need a free empathy movement.
People shouldn't just be free to speck, but we need to hear others
[empathy as a
conversation with ourself. parts of myself are in dialog with
other parts which are in conversation with other parts (other bodies).
Parts can dominate each other, suppress, repress, or they can
interrogate. Part of ourself is in conflict with other parts of ourself.