My claim is actually the opposite: To empathize with someone is to put yourself in her shoes, to feel her pain. Some researchers also use the term to encompass the more coldblooded process of assessing what other people are thinking, their motivations, their plans, what they believe. I will follow this convention here, but we should keep in mind that the two are distinct—they emerge from different brain processes; you can have a lot of one and a little of the other—and that most of the discussion of the moral implications of empathy focuses on its emotional side.
Why does this happen?
How can smart people take up positions that defy any reasonable logic? So if nothing else this essay serves as a kind of personal therapy session. Majoring in logic is not the kind of thing that makes people want to talk to you at parties, or read your essays.
But one thing I did learn after years of studying advanced logic theory is that proficiency in argument can easily be used to overpower others, even when you are dead wrong. If you learn a few tricks of logic and debate, you can refute the obvious, and defend the ridiculous. Opportunities for this are rare: It can be easier for smart people who have a habit of defending bad ideas to change jobs, spouses, or cities rather than honestly examine what is at the core of their psyche and often, their misery.
Short of obtaining a degree in logic, or studying the nuances of debate, remember this one simple rule for defusing those who are skilled at defending bad ideas: Simply because they cannot be proven wrong, does not make them right.
Most of the tricks of logic and debate refute questions and attacks, but fail to establish any true justification for a given idea. Death by homogeny The second stop on our tour of commonly defended bad ideas is the seemingly friendly notion of communal thinking. The power of peer pressure is that it works on our psychology, not our intellect.
As social animals we are heavily influenced by how the people around us behave, and the quality of our own internal decision making varies widely depending on the environment we currently are in. Try to write a haiku poem while standing in an elevator with 15 opera singers screaming 15 different operas, in 15 different languages, in falsetto, directly at you vs.
That said, the more homogeneous a group of people are in their thinking, the narrower the range of ideas that the group will openly consider. Some teams of people look to focus groups, consultancies, and research methods to bring in outside ideas, but this rarely improves the quality of thinking in the group itself.
Those outside ideas, however bold or original, are at the mercy of the diversity of thought within the group itself. Focus groups or other outside sources of information can not give a team, or its leaders, a soul.
A bland homogeneous team of people has no real opinions, because it consists of people with same backgrounds, outlooks, and experiences who will only feel comfortable discussing the safe ideas that fit into those constraints.
If you want your smart people to be as smart as possible, seek a diversity of ideas. Find people with different experiences, opinions, backgrounds, weights, heights, races, facial hair styles, colors, past-times, favorite items of clothing, philosophies, and beliefs.
Unify them around the results you want, not the means or approaches they are expected to use. On your own, avoid homogenous books, films, music, food, sex, media and people.
Be in the moment and be open to it. Until recently in human history, life was much less predictable and we were forced to encounter things not always of our own choosing. We are capable of more interesting and creative lives than our modern cultures often provide for us.
If you go out of your way to find diverse experiences it will become impossible for you to miss ideas simply because your homogenous outlook filtered them out.
Thinking at the wrong level At any moment on any project there are an infinite number of levels of problem solving. Part of being a truly smart person is to know which level is the right one at a given time. But as ridiculous as this scenario sounds, it happens all the time.An essay has been defined in a variety of ways.
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Sep 10, · Against Empathy from Boston Review. Most people see the benefits of empathy as too obvious to require justification.
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