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Why is there empathy? - Dhamma Wheel

Why is there empathy?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Nori
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Why is there empathy?

Postby Nori » Mon Sep 12, 2011 8:48 am

I thought I should change the title of my last post since it seems to be getting people confused.

--

There is a natural innate empathy, where we are affected by the emotions of others.

It is so strong for most people, that much grief derives from how others feel.

---

The Bhikku eventually gives up on pleasing others. He neither pleases nor displeases and is free from blame and praise.

I find for myself, that while it would be liberating to detach myself from the feelings of others, there is something in my psyche that does not allow myself to do it.

Wondering if anyone can shed light on this?

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kirk5a
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby kirk5a » Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:10 pm

Last edited by kirk5a on Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Jaidyn
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby Jaidyn » Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:24 pm

I see two kinds of grief. 1) The actual grief - natural human reactions of sadness and depression. 2) Grief caused by relating to nr. 1 in a "clumsy" way.

Maybe detach does not imply removing or getting free from nr. 1 - if you let me assume that is what you are suggesting.

There is a simile of being shoot by an arrow. The first pain is caused by the arrow, then a second pain arises from your mental reaction.

PeterB
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby PeterB » Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:34 pm

In reality it may well be that empathy is not innate but learned.
There are well documented cases of feral children who are self raised and whose capacity for empathy never develops fully even when they are adopted.
Likewise one theory which addresses the phenomenon of psychopathy sees it as the result of an absence of learning in a crucial area of development due to a number of causes.
Like many developmental areas there may be a period where empathy is not hard wired, and any interruption with the learning process during that period may mean that when the hard wiring does occurs it will exclude empathy.

chownah
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby chownah » Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:10 pm

I'm going to make an entirely unsupported conjecture and say that maybe empathy developed and survived through natural selection because it helped develop social cohesion....as humans evolved and became social animals having empathy as a trait enhaced social cohesion....those who laugh and cry together stay together....I guess...
Other animals seem to have empathy to one degree or another.....especially if they are social animals....maybe I'm wrong on this but it seems that way to me....
Just a wild and uninformed guess.
chownah

PeterB
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby PeterB » Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:17 pm


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daverupa
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby daverupa » Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:38 pm

Mirror neurons are implicated here.

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SDC
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby SDC » Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:03 pm


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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:27 pm

From the Dhammapada:

“As I am, so are others; as others are, so am I.” Having thus identified self and others, harm no one nor have them harmed. Empathy is a useful emotion.

M4
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?

Nori
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby Nori » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:57 pm


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Kim OHara
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:43 pm


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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Mon Sep 12, 2011 10:09 pm

Makes one wonder if the Geoffrey Dahmers and John Wayne Gaceys lack mirror neurons then? :thinking: Or if there is more to us than meat machines reacting to our environment. Interesting thing, these 5 khandas.

M4
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?

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ground
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby ground » Tue Sep 13, 2011 2:09 am

IMO perception of others mirrors "self"-perception ("sense of self"). If there is perception of "I" and "mine" ("self") what is called "empathy" will be equally "colored".


Kind regards

chownah
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby chownah » Tue Sep 13, 2011 3:18 am


PeterB
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby PeterB » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:55 pm


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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:28 pm

Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?

PeterB
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby PeterB » Tue Sep 13, 2011 5:47 pm

It is interestin'.
Certainly there is no single theory which covers all examples of Personality Disorder.
We find kindly well disposed folk whose family background would seem to be fertile ground for all manner of dysfunction..and on the other hand people with Personality Disorders who on the surface appear to have had every advantage in life both in terms of warm and caring families and in things material.
There are some classic recipes for producing Personality Disorder ...one or both parents with P.D. or neglect due to substance abuse in family etc etc...but there are many many exceptions.
Some people do indeed seem to be born with a vital something missing...fortunately they are uncommon in terms of incidence .

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BubbaBuddhist
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:14 pm

I seem to recall in my dim past reading somewhere regarding certain behavioral conditions, that genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger. If you throw kammic factors into the equation this idea takes on another layer of poignancy. It would take an arhat to straighten it all out. :juggling:

M4
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?

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ground
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby ground » Wed Sep 14, 2011 3:29 am


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DarwidHalim
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Re: Why is there empathy?

Postby DarwidHalim » Wed Sep 21, 2011 2:31 am

I am not here nor there.
I am not right nor wrong.
I do not exist neither non-exist.
I am not I nor non-I.
I am not in samsara nor nirvana.
To All Buddhas, I bow down for the teaching of emptiness. Thank You!


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