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[Xmca-l] Re: Question on Developing Empathy
- To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <email@example.com>, John Shotter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Question on Developing Empathy
- From: mike cole <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2014 19:17:18 -0800
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Hi Larry-- I still have not read John's paper. But at least dealing with
email I could not answer owing to local consequences of getting some of the
we asked for.
Firstly, here we have a clear case where John should be asked to join the
discussion. He is a long-admired colleague with whom we have far too little
interaction, speaking personally.
So, here is a part of answering. Perhaps off topic. I hope not. I believe
that the principle of the retrospective construction of meaning is a
foundational part of the problem under discussion and fictive stories about
how cognition and emotion are a dance between the frontal lobe and the
limbic system. In so far as emotion is effected AT ALL by experience, it is
retrospective, and hence, constructive. the "tools" of that construction
are, in the aggregate, human culture.
Cultural cognition is always, in principle, non-linear -- a sequences of
vicious circles and spirals of development.
As a routine practice, I used to spend a lot of time with undergraduates at
a local housing project. There the students engaged in a variety of
mutually valued practices -- a hybrid idioculture-- and learned through
empathy. It was all about growing ourselves by participating in the
development of others.
Finding socio-cultural-historical niches where such settings can be
sustained is quite a different matter. I am particularly interested in how
fragile and pre- occupying they are.
On Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 6:22 AM, Larry Purss <email@example.com> wrote:
> 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
> 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.