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[Xmca-l] Re: Question on Developing Empathy

Mike, I am completing a paper on vicious and expansive circles and their interplay. In your message below, the sentence marked in red is so much right on the money that I would like to use it as a motto in the paper (with the source appropriately acknowledged). Will you give permission?

Take care,


On Mar 5, 2014, at 5:17 AM, mike cole wrote:

> 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
> rain
> 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.
> mike
> On Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 6:22 AM, Larry Purss <lpscholar2@gmail.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
>> 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

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