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[Xmca-l] Question on Developing Empathy



A further response to John Shotter's exploration on subjective/objective
cuts as fluid dynamic wayfinding [orienting]

John concludes the paper on agential realism on page 19 with a question, in
which he is inviting our answer-ability. In re-stating this question on the
theme of *empathy* I hope this concrete question may generate responses
which are relevant for how we go on together.

The last paragraph on page 19 in which he leads up to the question is
re-stated:

All this is quite revolutionary. Much of what we have taken as *basic* to
our inquiries, e.g., the variables whose effects in social life we seek to
understand, such as race, ethnicity, culture, age, social class; processes
such as motivation, perception, cognition; things such as emotions,
excuses, justifications, and so on, and so on, we come to realize are all,
in fact, AFTER THE FACT outcomes of our inquiries. Further, when in
cognitive neuroscience in particular we read such sentences as: "Empathy
draws on these bodily and limbic shifts in a process called 'interoception'
in which we perceive inward ... [where] interoception, interpretation, and
attribution are the proposed steps of empathy carried out by the
pre-frontal region [of the brain]"(Seigal, 2007, p.168) we must ASK
OURSELVES whether anything in this account actually relates to phenomena in
people's everyday activities we call empathic [Frankfurt, 1998]?
Also, could we ever possibly apply these supposed 'elements' in actually
helping someone deficient in empathy to come to SHOW empathy more in their
daily practice, say, in nursing elderly patients - or is it the case that
the empathic conduct of an everyday practice needs to be LEARNED by quite
some other means than by building it up, piece by piece, from objective
elements according to PRE-ESTABLISHED principles? To repeat the point made
above, all these nominalized  'things' are FORESHADOWED in the very WAY in
which we, prior to the conduct of our investigations, commit ourselves to a
particular way of LOOKING AT the matter - "the decisive movement of the
conjuring trick has been made," says Wittgenstein (1953), "and it was the
very one that we thought quite innocent."

I, at work in schools, ask similar questions about *developing* empathy and
believe John Shotter in this article offers an answer which invites further
commentary.  His central insight is that by enacting agential cuts AS
performances we divide ourselves into ASPECTS which DO the sensing
AND ASPECTS of ourselves that are subjected to what is sensed. In other
words our *findings* cannot be taken AS *basic* but are actually developed
WITHIN our practices

John's conclusion is hermeneutical, inviting further answer-ability. I
believe his questions and answers are relevant to *developing* empathy
WITHIN our WAYS of orienting each in the other.
Larry
Status: O