I'm sure some wiser or more knowledgeable folks on that matter will provide some interesting answers.
i would put will-to-be-interested (or interest) up against either knowledge or wisdom, most days of the week.
Wonderful question. Definitely up-voted!Right off the bat, I'd like to nip the tendency to equate altruism and empathy in the bud. I'm not saying that the questioner is making this equation, but that I've seen it at work in discussions with more so-called socially-minded peeps, anarchist or not. Using egoist language, altruism is spooky; empathy is far more sensual. Altruism has a tends increasingly toward the abstract at play in logic, argumentation and the psychological tyranny of morality, not necessarily in that order.Empathy, on the other hand, may be likened to arousal, welling up uncontrollably, embodied. It is apt to say, 'I'm moved' or 'I'm touched.' I realize this may be a simplistic binary model, not able to plumb the depths, but I do find it a useful, if only provisional.For me, there's no such thing as empathy, but the word serves for a host of feelings arising always from somewhere at once similar and familiar. Now, these feelings may manifest in ways which others may label as altruistic, sometimes they don't. Empathy doesn't negate all senses of cruelty, after all, any more than a joyful life does. As such, I find these feelings contextual, not necessarily anthropocentric, and sometimes inter-plays in weird ways with so-called non-living 'things' which at first glance most people would think of as an object. Take this very-short story attributed to Hemingway, 6 words in fact:"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."Where does it take you? I recall what I felt the first time I heard this, for I feel it in some way every time I hear this. The feelings aroused over a presumably 'non-living thing.'Deeper still, I tend to feel those empathetic springs well up most intensely with those I've known for longer and with whom I choose continued play. It seems pretty obvious I 'value' these relations. They make up a great deal of my life, after all. One might say we re-spirate one another by way of mutual in-spiration. A deeper sense of mutual aid indeed.When socially-minded types invoke the specters of altruism, I sense a presupposed notion of mass-social scales underlying the invocation, and I question whether or not those invoking have deep connections with others and/or are always on the move, never settling long enough for formations of empathy. With the latter I have no issue with per se, but when the preaching begins on how others should live, they've lost me to be sure.In sum, I think it may be important to have socially-minded anarchists take some of the burden of demonstrating where they're coming from in using notions like 'empathy,' 'better future,' 'values,' 'good,' 'society,' rather than taking on that burden readily for them and unilaterally. I've not been fooled so much by these words for a while now, and at times have grown weary of, and irritable toward, the expectation to explain myself within a simplistic framework of 'good society/bad individuals' or some somber dirge like it. All in all, no one has a monopoly on these feelings. I simply feel them in one, unique, way.Edit for clarity and again.
'Isn't caring about someones feelings sympathy rather than empathy?'
i think caring about the feelings of others may be called all sorts of stuff depending on context and degree. but, sympathy means, at root, 'feeling with' and the human, all-too-human tendency toward co-miseration is one reason that i have little empathy in sympathy. ;-)
That I become more hardened and cruel is terrible, it is a dangerous slope to find oneself on, but one we have to find our way up.
I am wondering about this, and if it is a slope that one could prevent oneself from falling down. I feel like I can control my feelings to an extent, the more I nurture feelings the more I will feel them, maybe not all feelings, but for me it works this with empathy. Is it worth it to not even approach this sentiment?
i guess it kind of begs some sort of question about what it means to "feel", as well as what it means to be able to describe those feelings. describe, not necessarily categorize - though for some there is very little difference.
i remember years ago, a couple anarchist friends were talking about compassion. one, a hippie-dippie type, said he had compassion for every living being. the other, a bit more of a warrior type, was saying how he reserved his compassion for those who earn/deserve it.
a binary discussion, yet i found it raised interesting questions in my own mind.
"what it means to "feel", as well as what it means to be able to describe those feelings. describe, not necessarily categorize"
i think most people (i include myself) often get so caught up in categorizing, labeling, and defining (and quantifying), that we forget to describe what we see, hear, feel, experience....we forget to tell our stories and our perceptions of them, which continually change....as opposed to the static appearance that usually accompanies a category or label. basically, what AF wrote about "empathy" not existing as a "thing".