4
   

Empathy leads to hedonism

 
 
Ubuntu
 
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 11:26 am
Empathy is an emotional response to the (perceived) emotions of other sentient beings. To empathize with someone is to identify with their emotional state of mind, to feel what they feel. However, when you empathize with someone, it is their actual emotions that you identify with and not necessarily the attitude that they have towards the object of their emotion (example : if you have two brothers whom you love unconditionally but one hates the other as a result of his having hurt him in the past, you can empathize with your brother's stress without sharing the same attitude toward the object of his anger- your other brother whom you also love).

Hedonism is the idea that happiness and suffering are the only things that sentient beings really value and disvalue, we don't intuitively realize this because we're hardwired to associate the objects of our emotions with our emotions. The fact that we have mixed emotions and positive attitudes towards negative experiences and vice versa doesn't negate this. People would choose not to enter Nozick's virtual reality machine not because they value the truth but because the *idea* of living a lie is distressing to them. We don't always make decisions that effectively serve our interests (pursuing pleasure, avoiding stress) but we do make decisions based on a desire to experience pleasure and an aversion to stress.

If we were to make ethical decisions based on empathy alone, then our only concern would be the feelings of those that we feel empathy for. If their emotional well being was all that mattered to us, then we would judge an action as good or bad only on the basis that it increased happiness/minimized stress or increased stress/deprived someone of happiness. In a world without feelings, nothing would 'matter' since nobody could be positively or negatively affected by something. For this reason, happiness/freedom from suffering alone (and not preference, autonomy, knowledge etc.) should be the objective of ethics.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 2,995 • Replies: 25
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Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 12:35 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:

In a world without feelings, nothing would 'matter' since nobody could be positively or negatively affected by something. For this reason, happiness/freedom from suffering alone (and not preference, autonomy, knowledge etc.) should be the objective of ethics.
So moral judgements arise from emotion. Ethics experts, to the extent they try to find some other basis and thereby place the intellect in command are wasting their time. Is that what you mean?
Ubuntu
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 06:09 pm
@Arjuna,
All of our decisions, and all of our opinions and world views, are emotionally based. Logic is just something that we use to guide our emotions. Neuroscience has actually supported this. You cannot make a non-emotional argument for any school of ethics because emotions are the only reason why things matter to us. If a person is not emotionally receptive to an idea or philosophy, it doesn't matter how logically that view is presented. I think that fiction is a much better vehicle for moral commentary 1) because it actually demonstrates the application of moral world views in simulated, real life scenarios and 2) because art appeals to emotions that make ideas appealing to begin with (there is a lot of support for the idea that fiction generates empathy by forcing you to put yourself in the shoes of different characters).

What I actually meant in my post was that truth, autonomy, preference satisfaction (by 'preference' I do not mean desire) etc. are not intrinsically valuable. If, for example, you knew your friend's wife was cheating on him but it could be guaranteed that he would never suspect or find out, she was a very loving partner and made him very happy, there would be no moral reason for you to tell him. In fact, there would be a moral reason not to tell him because it would cause him unnecessary distress (unnecessary in that it doesn't prevent even more stress than telling him would cause him). The truth has no effect on his emotional state of mind so, despite what he may abstractly believe, it doesn't matter to him because it doesn't exist to him.


Arjuna
 
  2  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 07:03 pm
@Ubuntu,
The friend might be better off not knowing. But I don't have a crystal ball. What if he found out some other way down the line and ended up becoming a murderer... whereas if I'd told him previously, he would have gone to Tibet and become a monk?

I see where you're coming from. Have you read Bleak House? There's a character who explains that he goes around being a problem for other people so they can have the satisfaction of helping him. I love Dickens.

Thanks for your post!

RealEyes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 07:29 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:
You cannot make a non-emotional argument for any school of ethics because emotions are the only reason why things matter to us.


That's not entirely true. In terms of a goal (economic efficiency of a society lets say) there are clear behavioural patterns which aid or degenerate progress towards that goal. A code of ethics is a promoted behaviour-set designed to best meet the desired end result.

Emotions aren't necessarily a factor in ethics.
0 Replies
 
RealEyes
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 07:49 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:
Hedonism is the idea that happiness and suffering are the only things that sentient beings really value and disvalue


This is just a small semantical note, but that isn't quite what hedonism is. Hedonism focuses around pleasure, which isn't always synonymous with happiness.

Ubuntu wrote:
we do make decisions based on a desire to experience pleasure and an aversion to stress.


People do not always avoid stress. In fact, some people derive pleasure from stress (Such as masochists). Sometimes, people will make the choice to experience stress in order to achieve a gain of pleasure in the long-term (such as enduring a horrible part time job to make enough money for university).

Ubuntu wrote:
If their emotional well being was all that mattered to us, then we would judge an action as good or bad only on the basis that it increased happiness/minimized stress or increased stress/deprived someone of happiness.


Emotional well-being is also a complicated topic that divides into long-term equilibrium versus short-term. A hedonist, typically is someone who considers only the short-term effects that derive immediate pleasure.


Ubuntu wrote:
To empathize with someone is to identify with their emotional state of mind, to feel what they feel. However, when you empathize with someone, it is their actual emotions that you identify with and not necessarily the attitude that they have towards the object of their emotion


True empathy works on two levels: an emotional level and a conceptual one. Once you simulate the feelings that someone else is emulating, assuming your empathic skills are strong enough, your mind will begin to create a reasoning behind those emotions that justify them (based on information previously gathered).

For instance, if you look at a brother who is showing contempt toward his sibling, you might internally justify his feeling by simulating what his thoughts are based on the pattern of emotion and your own personal experiences with those emotions (you subconsciously put yourself in the others' shoes).

You may in fact adopt an accurate ad hoc attitude of the object they are displaying feelings about.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 08:02 pm
@RealEyes,
RealEyes wrote:

This is just a small semantical note, but that isn't quite what hedonism is. Hedonism focuses around pleasure, which isn't always synonymous with happiness.
The word has changed in meaning over time. I think he's on target about the original meaning.

RealEyes wrote:

People do not always avoid stress. In fact, some people derive pleasure from stress (Such as masochists). Sometimes, people will make the choice to experience stress in order to achieve a gain of pleasure in the long-term (such as enduring a horrible part time job to make enough money for university).
Or reading a Shakespeare play. "Hell and Night must bring this monstrous birth the world's light." That's a tad stressful.
RealEyes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 08:02 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:
The word has changed in meaning over time. I think he's on target about the original meaning.


Hedonism is derived from the Greek word for pleasure... it never had anything to do with happiness.
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 12:55 pm
@Ubuntu,
I have to totally disagree, henduism solves nothing abroad, only for a few individuals, capitalism has solved so much more suffering than anything else. In Denmark we don't have much suffering, infact we'r the most happy country in the world according to many scientists.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 05:37 pm
@RealEyes,
RealEyes wrote:

Arjuna wrote:
The word has changed in meaning over time. I think he's on target about the original meaning.


Hedonism is derived from the Greek word for pleasure... it never had anything to do with happiness.
I was focusing on the aversion to stress mentioned in the OP. By "pleasure," Epicurus meant tranquility.
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 05:40 pm
@HexHammer,
HexHammer wrote:

In Denmark we don't have much suffering, infact we'r the most happy country in the world according to many scientists.
I'm happy to hear it.
0 Replies
 
north
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 09:20 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:

Empathy is an emotional response to the (perceived) emotions of other sentient beings. To empathize with someone is to identify with their emotional state of mind, to feel what they feel. However, when you empathize with someone, it is their actual emotions that you identify with and not necessarily the attitude that they have towards the object of their emotion (example : if you have two brothers whom you love unconditionally but one hates the other as a result of his having hurt him in the past, you can empathize with your brother's stress without sharing the same attitude toward the object of his anger- your other brother whom you also love).

Hedonism is the idea that happiness and suffering are the only things that sentient beings really value and disvalue, we don't intuitively realize this because we're hardwired to associate the objects of our emotions with our emotions. The fact that we have mixed emotions and positive attitudes towards negative experiences and vice versa doesn't negate this. People would choose not to enter Nozick's virtual reality machine not because they value the truth but because the *idea* of living a lie is distressing to them. We don't always make decisions that effectively serve our interests (pursuing pleasure, avoiding stress) but we do make decisions based on a desire to experience pleasure and an aversion to stress.


Quote:
If we were to make ethical decisions based on empathy alone, then our only concern would be the feelings of those that we feel empathy for. If their emotional well being was all that mattered to us, then we would judge an action as good or bad only on the basis that it increased happiness/minimized stress or increased stress/deprived someone of happiness. In a world without feelings, nothing would 'matter' since nobody could be positively or negatively affected by something. For this reason, happiness/freedom from suffering alone (and not preference, autonomy, knowledge etc.) should be the objective of ethics.


so then we would live in a world , reality of pure logic...?

the thing is , is this , and what your thread is really getting at is whether we can handle the reality of the reality given to you about a situation , emotionally

we can, if we could just grow emotionally
0 Replies
 
Ubuntu
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 10:33 am
@RealEyes,
"That's not entirely true. In terms of a goal (economic efficiency of a society lets say) there are clear behavioural patterns which aid or degenerate progress towards that goal. A code of ethics is a promoted behaviour-set designed to best meet the desired end result.

Emotions aren't necessarily a factor in ethics."

Why do we *care* whether or not a country is economically prosperous? The desire for a certain end result is emotional, not logical. We use logic to achieve our goals but our goals are emotionally based.

'Pleasure' can be used as an umbrella term for all positive, desirable experiences. It's a misconception that 'hedonism' is just a selfish lust for sensual, physically based pleasures. If I'm not mistaken, the early hedonists made no distinction between pleasure and happiness, the idea that the two were separate was promoted by J.Stuart Mills who looked at Bentham's hedonism as a 'pig philosophy' (because he viewed human activities like a love for poetry or intellectual discourse as more valuable than the pleasures we share with 'lower' animals).

People do not always avoid stress but an aversion to stress (as well as a desire for pleasure) is the basis of all decisions. We have positive attitudes towards negative experiences because the *idea* of these experiences can be appealing to us, even if the actual experiences are not, or we tolerate them because they lead to long-term happiness.

There is a difference between cognitive empathy (intellectually understanding another person's emotional state of mind) and affective empathy (actually identifying with it, affective empathy is a form of love). I was talking about affective empathy. As for the two brothers scenario, I think a lot of times when we hear about someone being victimized in some way, we identify with their sadness out of love for them but empathy isn't the only response we have to the situation. We're also angry with the victimizers because we've logically analyzed their behavior as wrong (not to mention that we seem them as a threat to our well-being, since they'd probably behave the same way towards us) and we like to think that this anger has to do with our empathy for the victim but I don't think it actually does, even if it's the result of that empathy. As primates, we're hardwired to want to punish people for breaking the rules or behaving inappropriately but if we based ethical decisions on empathy alone, revenge would become obsolete since our concern would be the suffering of the victim and not punishing the victimizer, since we'd have empathy for the victimizer as well.


Ubuntu
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 10:44 am
@Arjuna,
This is a good point, Arjuna, we have to consider the consequences of our interference or inaction. We're bound to make mistakes, all I'm saying is that whatever decision we make should be based on the objective of increasing happiness/minimizing stress. It's not that this man doesn't deserve to know, it's that knowing will not (necessarily) benefit him. What he deserves is happiness, the belief that his wife is monogamous and honest makes him happy and that happiness would be valuable regardless of whether or not the belief is accurate. I haven't read the Bleak House but maybe I'll check it out.

Hex Hammer,

Hedonism is a normative ethical world view, capitalism is an economic system. If capitalism is the system that minimizes the most stress for the most people, then a hedonist would be for capitalism (if he believed that it was the most beneficial system). I'm pro-regulated capitalism/keynesian economics because I think this is the system that increases the most happiness in the most people. If I came across good evidence that communism or laissez- faire capitalism would increase more happiness/minimize more stress, then I would abandon my support for keynesian economics in favor of one of these systems instead. In principle, I am an anarchist-communist but although this system is morally ideal, I don't think it's very pragmatic.
parados
 
  2  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 10:48 am
@Ubuntu,
Quote:
If we were to make ethical decisions based on empathy alone, then our only concern would be the feelings of those that we feel empathy for.

Except we don't make ethical decisions on empathy alone.

A decision to do something can lead to happiness in some but suffering in others.

Take your example of 2 brothers. If you show affection toward one brother it will lead to happiness in that brother but suffering in the brother that hates him. If happiness/suffering is the only objective, it still means you have to make a judgment as to whether your act creates more happiness or more suffering.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 10:54 am
@parados,
...Happiness or suffering they are both needed giving specific contexts as process of education...it is a common Western tradition to take the "good" and leave the "bad" behind, the eternal Judaic and Christian cultural based heritage for the Utopia of lost EDEN...
parados
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 03:36 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Quote:
.it is a common Western tradition to take the "good" and leave the "bad" behind,


But that wouldn't be empathy. If we only feel the "good" other people feel then we aren't empathic.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 05:36 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:

This is a good point, Arjuna, we have to consider the consequences of our interference or inaction. We're bound to make mistakes, all I'm saying is that whatever decision we make should be based on the objective of increasing happiness/minimizing stress. It's not that this man doesn't deserve to know, it's that knowing will not (necessarily) benefit him. What he deserves is happiness, the belief that his wife is monogamous and honest makes him happy and that happiness would be valuable regardless of whether or not the belief is accurate. I haven't read the Bleak House but maybe I'll check it out.

Hex Hammer,

Hedonism is a normative ethical world view, capitalism is an economic system. If capitalism is the system that minimizes the most stress for the most people, then a hedonist would be for capitalism (if he believed that it was the most beneficial system). I'm pro-regulated capitalism/keynesian economics because I think this is the system that increases the most happiness in the most people. If I came across good evidence that communism or laissez- faire capitalism would increase more happiness/minimize more stress, then I would abandon my support for keynesian economics in favor of one of these systems instead. In principle, I am an anarchist-communist but although this system is morally ideal, I don't think it's very pragmatic.
Wonder how the difference between sympathy and empathy figures in ethics.

It's not uncommon to see people who appear to create unhappiness for themselves. Even in Utopia, they would find the way to be miserable. Yet I think people like that are still happy in their own way... they're getting something out of the misery. It serves them in some way.

There is a mindset where there is virtue in being victimized and miserable. I think of it as a Roman point of view that being a victim doesn't make you virtuous, it just means you were powerless. Get a little power, and then we'll see how virtuous you are.

I've been thinking that everybody follows the path of least resistance. Even if I'm climbing Mt. Everest, it's stressful for me, but it's easier than the alternative. You can't expect a person to demonstrate wisdom they don't have. But following that line of thought takes us out of ethics all together, doesn't it? We'd find we can't condemn anybody for anything. It's an amoral perspective and not particularly useful to a judge.

What is the perspective that the judge finds useful?

0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 10:57 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:
Hex Hammer,

Hedonism is a normative ethical world view, capitalism is an economic system. If capitalism is the system that minimizes the most stress for the most people, then a hedonist would be for capitalism (if he believed that it was the most beneficial system). I'm pro-regulated capitalism/keynesian economics because I think this is the system that increases the most happiness in the most people. If I came across good evidence that communism or laissez- faire capitalism would increase more happiness/minimize more stress, then I would abandon my support for keynesian economics in favor of one of these systems instead. In principle, I am an anarchist-communist but although this system is morally ideal, I don't think it's very pragmatic.
I was merely saying that Hendoism does not generate any capital by itself, in that it's quite inefficient, thus can't afford to educate doctors, lawyers, engineers ..etc, buy expensive equipment, buy expensive infrastructure ..etc.

All these things Imo is a better happiness factor, also compared to communism vs capitalism. It must be neo communism, else it usually ends up in chaos, as it rejects the idea of leaders, promote killing of people to reach it's goals, are greedy and let lazy people undeserving get what hardworking people have gained ..etc.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 11:44 pm
@HexHammer,
Undeserving people only get what they want when they came in huge numbers...and that is far from being powerless...and such is the problem !

If we concede something certainly it is not for "free"...and such that there must be a force on the other side of the fence even if with a subtle appearance...(who´s really weak at this light ?)

Natural selection essentially made by woman should have taken care of the undeserving...so the question arises, why was it that they did n´t ? Are they really undeserving, or we are making a step to far in judgement with a linear approach to a deeper, more complex problem ?

Besides why do you think people hard work if not for a later hedonist expectancy of a better life ?

As for freaks of nature, with to much hormones running in they veins, even those, as mutations in the main pattern, at least serve the purpose of try and error in the evolution process in search for diversification...are they needed ? Of course !
0 Replies
 
 

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