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Dare to be abnormal

 
 
coberst
 
Reply Sat 19 Apr, 2008 05:04 am
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,897 • Replies: 18
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Apr, 2008 11:32 pm
Re: Dare to be abnormal
coberst wrote:


If we accept the idea that understanding involves creating meaning for oneself, and we also accept that empathy is a technique for understanding, then it follows that empathy is a technique for creating meaning for oneself; and that is the opposite of "putting on someone else's shoes." By your premises, empathy is putting someone else into your shoes. I'm not (necessarily) questioning your choice to define understanding like this, but if we accept your premises, then describing it as "putting on someone else's shoes" would be misguided at best, deceptive at worse.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2008 07:42 am
Re: Dare to be abnormal
Shapeless wrote:
coberst wrote:


If we accept the idea that understanding involves creating meaning for oneself, and we also accept that empathy is a technique for understanding, then it follows that empathy is a technique for creating meaning for oneself; and that is the opposite of "putting on someone else's shoes." By your premises, empathy is putting someone else into your shoes. I'm not (necessarily) questioning your choice to define understanding like this, but if we accept your premises, then describing it as "putting on someone else's shoes" would be misguided at best, deceptive at worse.


When I empathisize with another person I make that other person meaningful to me. I place myself in the picture with that other person. When I place myself in the shoes of another I am placing myself into the picture with that person. Curiosity and caring are necessary for achieving understanding. Understanding is a long step beyond knowing; I suspect few people have had an intellectual understanding because our schools settle only for knowing.
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2008 09:42 am
Re: Dare to be abnormal
coberst wrote:
When I empathisize with another person I make that other person meaningful to me. I place myself in the picture with that other person.


Again, you've got it backwards. To make another person meaningful to you is to place that person in your picture. It's called being an ideologue. It's only by placing yourself in his or her picture that you are making yourself meaningful to him or her.

The former happens all the time, to be sure; I would even call it inevitable. But it would be very naive, if not deceptive, to mask the former as the latter.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2008 01:21 pm
Re: Dare to be abnormal
Shapeless wrote:
coberst wrote:
When I empathisize with another person I make that other person meaningful to me. I place myself in the picture with that other person.


Again, you've got it backwards. To make another person meaningful to you is to place that person in your picture. It's called being an ideologue. It's only by placing yourself in his or her picture that you are making yourself meaningful to him or her.

The former happens all the time, to be sure; I would even call it inevitable. But it would be very naive, if not deceptive, to mask the former as the latter.


The person with whom I try to understand has no idea that I am doing that. There is no way that person can find meaning for them in what they are not conscious of. The act of understanding is to create a meaningful relationship for the two of us in my conscious mind.
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2008 01:27 pm
Re: Dare to be abnormal
coberst wrote:
The person with whom I try to understand has no idea that I am doing that. There is no way that person can find meaning for them in what they are not conscious of.


Bingo. That is why it is your picture, and not theirs, in which you are operating when you "empathize." The very act of calling it a "picture" already demonstrates that it is your mental construct rather than theirs, because to view something as a picture is to conceive of boundaries indicating what is in the picture and what is not, and those are not decisions that the target of your empathy makes, since (as you just mentioned) he or she is not aware of being in a specific picture in the first place.
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aidan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2008 07:06 pm
I find this whole conversation very confusing. I understand what you are saying about empathy and putting yourself in someone's else's shoes, but I also understand what Shapeless is saying about the fact that if you empathize with someone who has no idea you're empathizing that you're putting them in your picture as opposed to joining them in their picture.

What confuses me is when you first say that the focus of your empathy has no idea you are empathizing with him or her so that it doesn't impact him or her consciously, but in the following paragraph you state that 'the act of understanding is to create a meaningful relationship for the two of you in your conscious mind'

I guess it's the word 'relationship' that causes my confusion. How can you create a relationship in your mind with someone who has no consciousness of your thoughts toward him or her, whether empathetic or not? In my experience, I only have relationships with people with whom I'm in some sort of communication - everything or anything else I would only call 'observation'.

I thought your questions were interesting in the first post.
1) I think truth is so far beyond what is considered normal in most cases that what is considered normal rarely even approaches truth. Although I realize that what is true for me may not be true for others.
2) I think understanding may or may not aid normalization. I can see that working both ways depending on what is being understood.
3) I think I'm normal (though not typical in some ways) though others probably find me less normal than they believe themselves to be. But I sometimes find what others seem to perceive as being 'normal' kind of strange to me - and so much depends on the context or setting in which I'm operating. I'd say it probably all evens out.
4)I'd rather feel that I'm doing what's right for me to do than be considered normal, but again that is dependent on who's doing the considering - especially by some of today's standards. There are some people whose opinion I highly respect - and others' who if they did feel I was right or normal- it would worry me.
5)I think abnormal and foolish are relative terms.
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Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Apr, 2008 07:29 pm
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Apr, 2008 02:08 am
aidan

You are correct. Normal and foolish are relative terms. Most have to do with our relationship with others. Therein lay our problem. We have learned to dominate objects but we have not yet learned to live together with others in ways that will safeguard survival of the species or the planet.

We are meaning creating creatures and I would say that looking at the matter historically our species is at an adolescent age and we all know how that can be very dangerous.
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OGIONIK
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Apr, 2008 04:34 pm
whats the ultimate thing philosophy teaches us? altogether now!

"meaning means whatever you want it to mean"
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aidan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Apr, 2008 05:58 pm
Well, I'm not that big a students of philosophy...I don't need to know what I mean, I already know what I mean, but I'm interested in knowing what Coberst means.

Because I was thinking about it and I don't think you CAN place yourself in another's shoes unless you've had some communication with that person and you know what their shoes feel like to them.

You might think it sucks to be them, because from what you see from the outside -- that's how you would perceive and experience their specific set of circumstances. But they might be perceiving it differently than you would - whether for better or worse.

I think it always helps to enlighten oneself by hearing things from the horse's mouth instead of accepting a second-hand and uninformed version which is what you'll be getting from simply observing someone else.

My friend's dad was an alcoholic and he told her something that she passed on to me a long time ago - and I've never forgotten it. He told her, "Never compare your insides to someone else's outside". I'd expand that to say, "Never compare someone else's outside to your insides."
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2008 07:12 am
OGIONIK wrote:
whats the ultimate thing philosophy teaches us? altogether now!

"meaning means whatever you want it to mean"
0 Replies
 
coberst
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2008 07:18 am
aidan wrote:
Well, I'm not that big a students of philosophy...I don't need to know what I mean, I already know what I mean, but I'm interested in knowing what Coberst means.

Because I was thinking about it and I don't think you CAN place yourself in another's shoes unless you've had some communication with that person and you know what their shoes feel like to them.

You might think it sucks to be them, because from what you see from the outside -- that's how you would perceive and experience their specific set of circumstances. But they might be perceiving it differently than you would - whether for better or worse.

I think it always helps to enlighten oneself by hearing things from the horse's mouth instead of accepting a second-hand and uninformed version which is what you'll be getting from simply observing someone else.

My friend's dad was an alcoholic and he told her something that she passed on to me a long time ago - and I've never forgotten it. He told her, "Never compare your insides to someone else's outside". I'd expand that to say, "Never compare someone else's outside to your insides."


If I want to understand a terrorist I must learn all that I can about him. The way to do that is to read books by people who appear to know about such people. With that knowledge I then recognize that we are both humans and thus we share many things. I try to place myself in his position and ask myself what I would do if I lived his life.

If we do not understand our enemy we cannot defeat him or her. The reason we have failed in Vietnam and in Iraq is because we had no understading of the people we were fighting. We were willing to bomb them but unwilling to understand them.
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Wed 23 Apr, 2008 11:00 pm
coberst wrote:
If I want to understand a terrorist I must learn all that I can about him. The way to do that is to read books by people who appear to know about such people.


If we use extreme examples like terrorists, then yes, it is easy to think that secondary sources are "the" way to learn about people. But almost any other example would suffice to show that secondary sources are only one, and often not the most productive or helpful, of several routes toward what you are calling "empathy." Some of these other routes may require leaving the comfort of one's philosophical armchair, but that's a small price to pay for being able to empathize with a person rather than empathize with a book.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 01:55 am
Shapeless wrote:
coberst wrote:
If I want to understand a terrorist I must learn all that I can about him. The way to do that is to read books by people who appear to know about such people.


If we use extreme examples like terrorists, then yes, it is easy to think that secondary sources are "the" way to learn about people. But almost any other example would suffice to show that secondary sources are only one, and often not the most productive or helpful, of several routes toward what you are calling "empathy." Some of these other routes may require leaving the comfort of one's philosophical armchair, but that's a small price to pay for being able to empathize with a person rather than empathize with a book.



As McLuhan informs us our technology extends our reach. I suspect that our most serious problems both as a nation and as a species is to learn how to live together on a Global level. We must lean how to empathesize with our neighbor but it is far more important and difficult to do so with a person in another nation.

Our culture has a very strong anti-intellectual bias and our people disdain books as a result. Such is a dangerous course for a nation to take.
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aidan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 03:34 am
I must be a pacifist through and through because when you talk about 'defeating our enemy' and using 'understanding' as a tool to help achieve that- my first thought is that if we understood each other at all we probably wouldn't be enemies...and thus the need to defeat anyone or anything would be alleviated.

Coberst - Speaking as an educator, which I understand is a profession whose practitioners you hold some disdain for (and I can't disagree with you for the most part) I'll tell you that different people have different learning styles. And the most effective learning strategy or method for most students is one that combines kinesthetic (tactile), visual, and aural input. I know for myself - I digest much more information when I can not only read, but also hear and personally have some sort of hands on experience which relates to the subject I'm being asked to comprehend.

So books are only the beginning, usually, in a learning process. And for some, who learn differently, they aren't particularly useful at all. I applaud your advocacy for continued learning but I know that when I'm really curious about something- a book is only my starting point. And if I'm trying to gain some understanding of a specific person - at the very least, I'd make sure I was reading an authorized biography or better yet -- an autobiography.

I applaud your diligence in advocating for continued education and curiousity about life, and it does sadden me to see that people are ever more willing to bypass reading as a method for understanding - or even a pleasurable escape ...but I don't think reading a book about terrorists will help to unravel that particular mystery. I think that sort of behavior is rooted in something that lies beyond what most normal people are able to empathize with. And I'm not sure that they should.

There's also the danger that people will accept what is fed them via publication as the gospel truth.
I read a study on information and truth and it said that the biggest indicator of how likely it is that a piece of information will be believed is not how accurate it is - not even how logical it is for it to be accurate - but how many times it is repeated.
In other words- the more often something is repeated - the more likely people are to believe it.
And if it's written instead of just related orally - that adds to the impression of veracity that people assign what may well be a piece of blatant misinformation.
I'll try to remember where I read it and provide a link.
But I offer this as a reminder that sometimes written information, particularly for those who are not critical thinkers and discerning readers can do harm instead of serving to enlighten and inform.
Especially in today's internet-obsessed society.
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 10:25 am
coberst wrote:
As McLuhan informs us our technology extends our reach. I suspect that our most serious problems both as a nation and as a species is to learn how to live together on a Global level. We must lean how to empathesize with our neighbor but it is far more important and difficult to do so with a person in another nation.

Our culture has a very strong anti-intellectual bias and our people disdain books as a result. Such is a dangerous course for a nation to take.


None of that addresses what I wrote. The last bit also contradicts recent findings, but I know that you never let observation get in the way of your predetermined beliefs.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 11:22 am
Aidan

I am a strong advocate of what I call self-actualizing self-learning. One of the first things that the self-learner must learn is how to think and make good judgments. Learning CT (Critical Thinking) is a necessary condition for the individual to have the means of sifting out the grain from the chaff.
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spendius
 
  1  
Reply Thu 24 Apr, 2008 05:17 pm
aidan wrote-

Quote:
guess it's the word 'relationship' that causes my confusion. How can you create a relationship in your mind with someone who has no consciousness of your thoughts toward him or her, whether empathetic or not?


By understanding the "real you" in the other and not being all het up about it if it expresses itself in a harmless fashion by which I mean no long term consequences which affect any non-consenting others.

Interesting. I'll read again tomorrow if I have time.
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