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The spurious use of the word empathy, in Sam Richard's superficial and incomplete arguements. Surely the U.S.A would act as the U.K. WW2

Richard's i prori are mistaken. Can one have empathy for Arab slave traders ?Can one empathise with a paedophile ? Can one empathise with a Nazi, who used Jewish Babes for target practice? To empathise one needs in depth knowledge of others' culture, religion and behaviour to others. An insight into manipulative leaders and man-abused religions is also essential, on this scale.Partial knowledge and reasoning are dangerous, and create misinformative conclusions. I find his performance absolutly unworthy of his aspirations. The word empathy is related to compassion !!! The extreme behaviour , of my examples, was NOT carried out by all abused people, or Nazis etc. I still believe in mankind .........................

  • Apr 30 2011: I also agree with you. Empathy should come from ONE person toward ONE other person. Extreme generalizations like those are dangerous. I believe that to truly feel empathy you need to know the other person. That's why you need to go to that other person, talk with him, learn to know him, suffer with him.

    Otherwise it's just empty empathy, just to clear your own conscience like "Meh I'm a good person, I feel empathy"
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    May 9 2011: May I also point out the incorrect use of your lead in word 'Spurious' which when boiled down means right or wrong. please see definition:

    spurious |ˈspyoŏrēəs|
    not being what it purports to be; false or fake : separating authentic and spurious claims.
    • (of a line of reasoning) apparently but not actually valid : this spurious reasoning results in nonsense.
    • archaic (of offspring) illegitimate.

    The thing is, that in the end it was Sam's opinion that you did not like and by their very nature an opinion cannot be right or wrong. It is simply that, an opinion. Even Hitlers opinions were just opinions, it was his actions that were diabolical. So in trying to stay away from making you wrong I would have to say you have gotten your argument wrong about Sam Richard's. You may not like Sam's opinion and that is fine but Sam it neither right nor wrong, he is simply asking you to empathize with somone else for a few minutes. May I suggest you start by trying to empathize with Sam as a beginning exercise? So unless you have an undying need to be right yourself I don't quite understand your 'come from' point.
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        May 9 2011: Obviously some opinions don't need an MA to realise they are wrong. However the sun being hot is not an opinion it is a proven fact. We don't appear to have much in the way of proven facts about how other people feel about us invading their countries and I did say fact.
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    May 8 2011: I think the man has it right. He did not say with have to 'sympathize' he said 'empathize'. If we cannot empathize with others we will never be able to understand where they are coming from and in that case we will always take the stand of being right instead of being successful. To me being right simply comes from a point of arrogance and superiority being successful comes from a stand of trying to understand and then making decisions based on that understanding.
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      May 8 2011: Hallelujiah!
      You have found the crux of the problem Lee. I feel that there may be more need to blatantly define terms before we discuss things because words are used without understanding by too many of us and it taints our thinking processes. I have posted definitions for empathy, sympathy and compassion below.

      em·pa·thy   /ˈɛmpəθi/ Show Spelled
      [em-puh-thee] Show IPA

      1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
      2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

      sym·pa·thy   /ˈsɪmpəθi/ Show Spelled
      [sim-puh-thee] Show IPA
      noun, plural -thies, adjective
      1. harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another.
      2. the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions.
      3. the fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration.


      com·pas·sion   /kəmˈpæʃən/ Show Spelled
      [kuhm-pash-uhn] Show IPA

      1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

      We are talking about radical EMPATHY.
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      May 4 2011: I am not getting in the way this time, Nichola other than to commend you and give you a thumbs up for an ameliorative style!
      I think your question is at the heart of the matter and worthwhile for you especially as you are seen as the representative of your country in a perhaps hostile environment.
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      May 5 2011: Good question. It's a bit broad but I'll just take a swipe at it with an equally broad stroke of the brush.

      Like just about every other country in the world, the U.S. is a nation of individuals who are trying to get on with their lives and seek meaning and happiness and love and friendship. That the U.S. has a ruling political and economic class of people who do what plutocrats do (reproduce their position in the world for themselves and their children) simply makes it like just about every other nation-state in the world. There is little that any average, ordinary individual American can do about the decisions that the ruling groups make, and so ordinary Americans cannot be blamed for what is clearly outside of their control (e.g., foreign policies that are just peaceful and others that are sometimes violent and clearly contrary to human rights of others in other parts of the world -- not to mention in the U.S. proper). We could argue that individuals can have an impact, but sociologically speaking it's nearly impossible to find direct links between any one individual and the actions of a large collectivity of economic and political decision-makers.

      So when Americans are just getting on in life and trying to be happy, work hard, love, and find security against all sorts of conditions and forces of nature, they are just doing what every other person in the world is doing -- living. And this living has almost nothing to do with the actions of leaders. This makes the average American very similar to the average North Korean, by the way. We all wake up, shut off the alarm, brush our teeth, splash water on our faces, relieve ourselves on the toilet, and on and on. Sociologically speaking, 98 percent of our decisions are similar day in and day out. "Wait, here comes a car. Don't cross against the light." You can get the picture. Of course the other two percent are profoundly consequential, but this is about empathy and similarity and not differences. cont.
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        May 5 2011: AWESOME. This gets to the heart of what makes a lot of these discussions no better than a bit of gossip over the teacups.

        While we talk about 'women' or 'men' or 'Americans' or "Arabs' we do no justice to people. There is no resolution because when we discuss at this level, we are only discussing some imagined state of affairs based on our very limited knowledge and even more limited experience (of others and the shoes they walk in).

        The 21st Century is about connections - not with an imagined 'global community' but individuals with individuals.

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      May 5 2011: Part Two: So now it's up to other people to see how we're just doing what THEY are doing -- living our lives in spite of our government. A Swede can no more direct the socialist educational policies of his or her government any more than I can close down a prison where torture of political prisoners takes place. Cut us some slack ye global critics. Somehow Americans get singled out as having power and control over our decision-makers. I suppose we're largely responsible for it given all of the hooting we do about democracy. But it's a democracy based on legalized bribery of law-makers and other elected officials and so one only has to pull back the curtain just a little bit to see the wizard in control (and that would be $$$).

      It's funny, by the way, how in all of my travels around the world the only people who truly see this have been Palestinians. Crazy. One after another has told me with utmost sincerity that they don't dislike the American people at all because we are not our government. So I have always responded (as a probing question and not from personal conviction) that we vote people into office and support them. And then they respond--and really, when I say "they" I mean just about every one--with a look that says, "Are you serious? You really think you put them into office?"

      The alternative is what I've experienced in most of the world: "i don't dislike you Americans; I dislike your government." And then they launch into diatribes about how stupid and greedy and dumb we are as a people, forgetting that it is our government that they're supposed to be hating on.

      So how's that for empathy for the good ol' USofA? I personally find this country to be an amazing experiment in multiculturalism and I repeat it to my students time and again. We too often focus on our flaws and slavery and genocide of indigenous peoples, but if we step back and see the conflicts that COULD be occurring on these shores, it's really one damn impressive nation.
      • May 5 2011: Hello Mr. Richards
        I grew up and still living in a region where everybody thinks about the US government (represented in it's foreign policy) as being hungry for resources in their countries, and being double standard when it comes to democracy and human rights , but they think that most americans are so self involved and have little to know about politics so they are not to be blamed for their government foreign policies UNTIL bin laden made the claim that they should held responsible for giving their vote.
        Now because I believe in freedom, democracy, rights of expression, and most of the values America stand for, because of all of that I disagree with quite lots of people in my community when it comes to subjects of explaining american policy, and in order to bring to their understanding some trivial concepts that most of you think it's rational I have to make them "put theirselves into your shoes" .period!
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          May 5 2011: One problem is that most people in the world are pretty self indulgent and don't know much about the true workings of their own government. Mind you, Americans might be a bit extreme in how we embrace our ignorance, in how we wear it as a badge of honor, but I'm not all that impressed about other average people around the world and with how those average people understand what makes the wheels of their countries go around.

          As to people resenting the foreign policy of the U.S., well, THAT is understandable. We are a massive system dependent upon fossil fuels and we ARE hungry for resources. But that is hardly the entire story.
      • May 5 2011: Oh! I had to tell I am not American , never been in US, but stand for the values.
        What I mean to say that empathy can go both ways, and that's what will make us understand each other as human being.
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    May 4 2011: I have no idea what you're really saying in this question/statement. Nonetheless...

    Someone asked me the other day how it could be possible to empathize with Israelis? That was a pretty easy walk through. They then turned up the heat and asked, "Okay, how about settlers." Once again, I walked them through. Do I have to know a settler to feel something akin to what a settler feels? And if you say "yes," then I ask how well do I have to know them before I can allow myself to have a single empathic emotion? If empathy "can only occur person to person," then might it only occur between close friends or could casual acquaintances empathize with one another? How about two people in wheelchairs passing one another on the street for the first time? Can THEY empathize with each another or would you say it's not possible because they don't really know one another? How about a single person in a wheelchair empathizing with a group of people in wheelchairs? I think you get my point.

    So I've heard the perspectives of many of settler but I don't know any personally. Can I still empathize?
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      May 4 2011: thnak you..loud and clear and i love that you tok the time and interest to drop in on tis talk back toyour TED Talk. Really great.
  • Apr 30 2011: If one needs in depth knowledge and experience in order to empathise, the implication is that only the learned have a valid opinion; all others are to be deemed spurious. I cannot, for example, feel for the victim of a crime if I too have not had a similar misfortune.
    Is there any other type of knowledge and reasoning other than partial?
  • May 12 2011: In defense of Sam Richard's UN-spurious use of empathy. After all the lies and war crimes committed by the Bush-Cheny crowd in the name of America, I wonder if we can ever expect the average Iraqi to have much empathy for the average American? Maybe I'm confusing empathy for forgivness and hoping that Iraqis have at least some understanding of why Americans invaded their country and slaughtered so many of them. I don't believe empathy for the average "Joes," of the world remotely implies or requires condoning, or even an understanding, of the psycopathic criminal acts that "Joe's" country's leaders may have perpetrated on the world in his name. It does require the ability to recognize the qualities inherent in us all that make us human, and that pots and kettles are pretty much the same thing.
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    May 8 2011: May I suggest a further resources to learn more about empathy and compassion.
    The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
    The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.
  • May 5 2011: Re:Spurious use of the word empathy.

    Yes to all your questions. Empathy requires only honesty and imagination. If you can honestly understand your own feelings and emotions you can use your imagination to extrapolate a small feeling into something that is so forceful that it causes people to act in seemingly in-human ways. They are human however. They have the same basic machinery as all other humans. Some part of them that we all have has been emphasized and pushed to an extreme. However much I feel sad that someone goes so far away from what is healthy for themselves and the rest of the species I can still understand how it came to be and why the extreme behavior seems normal or perhaps even necessary to the person doing those horrible things. And, yes I have compassion for them because they have the empathic connection just like all living things and they do hurt and distort themselves ever more the more they hurt others.
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    May 4 2011: There are many levels of empathy, and when we are aware of all the levels, we can empathize with many different people on all levels, either as individuals, or groups of people. You are right Muriel, that to empathize on a deeper level, we need knowledge. You are also right in saying that "partial knowledge and reasoning are dangerous and can create misinformative conclusions". It feels like you have made a conclusion. Do you have all relevant knowledge necessary to come to your conclusion?

    We can be empathic to a group of people by realizing that we all have endured pain, suffering and challenge in this earth school experience. It is difficult to put ourselves into the shoes of all people in a group of people, so then, at another level, we empathise with individuals. None of our empathy is superficial, in my humble perception. It could be at a different level, however, which I percieve Sam Richards to encourage.
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    May 4 2011: One of my red flags in life is the answer to the question "What does this person have to gain from this advice?"" If it is apparent that the person stands to gain for her pocket or her ideology- I trust the questionner or the advisor's information less.