Empathy is great provided that we use it wisely

In a page at my website dealing with mindfulness meditation, I’ve discussed the uses and abuses of compassion.

I’ve also discussed a range of viewpoints regarding empathy.

A July 12, 2012 Wired article is entitled: “Compassion over empathy could help prevent emotional burnout.”

A June 3, 2013 Harvard University Press article is entitled: Is Empathy Bad?

A Sept. 10, 2014 Boston review article is entitled: “Against Empathy.”

A Jan. 4, 2017 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Against Empathy: Yale psychology professor says too much emotion leads to bad moral decisions.”

A Feb. 14, 2017 Science of Us article is entitled: “Rich People Literally See the World Differently.”

A March 1, 2017 Scientific American article is entitled: “Too Much Emotional Intelligence Is a Bad Thing: Profound empathy may come at a price.”

A March 17, 2017 Atlantic article is entitled: “The University of Michigan’s Plan to Increase Diversity: The administration has launched a multiyear racial and socioeconomic diversity plan, but a lot of students aren’t pleased.”

Who benefits from empathy and the denigration of it?

An underlying subtext concerns the question of who benefits – and what worldview and mindset benefits – from the denigration of empathy? A related question concerns evidence-based practice, as it relates to the topic of empathy. To what extent are we dealing with facts, when we talk about empathy, and to what extent are we dealing with framing?

Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2015)

I much enjoy the following overview (p. 280; I’ve broken the original, longer paragraph into shorter ones) from Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin (2015) regarding “the worst approach to empathy”:

Beyond his time in the KGB, Vladimir Putin has no firsthand experience of Western society. To assume that he does, and that he should think like us or even understand how we think, is an example of what U.S. scholar Zachary Shore – in his 2014 book, A Sense of the Enemy: The High-Stakes History of Reading Your Rival’s Mind – describes as “simulation theory.”

We ask ourselves what we would do in another per­son’s position, but this is “unfortunately, the worst approach to empathy because it assumes that others will think and act as we do, and too often they don’t.” [62] As we have pointed out in earlier chapters, Putin’s under­standing – in the Russian context – of how the free market works or should work is very different from a U.S. or European perspective.

It was informed by his experience growing up in the Soviet Union and working in St. Petersburg as deputy mayor, as well as by his studies in the KGB and life in Dresden when the East German economy was in shambles.

Putin’s conception of democratic politics, or at least what he views as democratic politics, was filtered by his experience in the German Demo­cratic Republic, and then in the rough-and-tumble of post-Soviet Russian politics in St. Petersburg and later in Moscow.



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