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Old 11-05-2012, 04:37 AM   #1
byronselorme
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Default Compassion and Nietzsche

I was listening to a lecture About Nietzsche and something he said struck me and I wonder what some thoughts here are. It was regarding the word compassion. Now I am not sure if he was just poking fun in the way he tends to do (in this case I think it is at buddhism) but it was that the root of the word compassion is along the lines of to suffer with or together. The interesting point he was making was that if the goal is to help reduce suffering then this approach is doomed to fail because now there are 2 people suffering, so in essence the suffering in the world has now increased.

I realize that he often continued to choose diametrically opposed points of view for the way it challenged his thinking, but this seems like a radical one and I wonder if it might stir something interesting.

Any takers?
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Old 11-05-2012, 04:54 AM   #2
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I would say that if feeling compassion was an end result then the argument presented makes sense. Compassion isn't an end result though, its value lies in the actions that it inspires and these actions reduce suffering.
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Old 11-05-2012, 04:57 AM   #3
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I'm an atheist, but I think someone said it better than I did a long time ago.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
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Old 11-05-2012, 05:41 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by byronselorme View Post
the root of the word compassion is along the lines of to suffer with or together. The interesting point he was making was that if the goal is to help reduce suffering then this approach is doomed to fail because now there are 2 people suffering, so in essence the suffering in the world has now increased.
At a neuroscientific, neuroimaging level, children who have variations of (the unfortunately named) Congenital Insensitivity to Pain Syndrome have brains which don't ever learn to produce a pain response. However, the parts of the brain which correlate (that's for you Randy) to pain experience, perception, still light up.
I can dig up the references for anyone who doesn't believe me.
It could be argued this is a compassion system.
Generally, in anyone who treats pain in other people for a living, I would suspect this system lights up, as we have robust mirror neurons. Probably lots of other systems too, particularly prefrontal (meaning constructing) systems. Ramachandran said in a video that the only way your brain knows the difference between your own pain and someone else's pain is by the absence of correlative (for Randy again) data from your own somatosensory cortex.

Being able to feel what someone else is feeling and not feel it as one's own self hurting is also known as having solid therapeutic boundaries.
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Old 11-05-2012, 02:30 PM   #5
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Thanks for that synopsis, Diane.
I agree with Randy's first post 100%. If the endpoint is compassion - nothing changes and 2 suffer.
Compassion can be the drive towards a solution however. Similar to empathy.
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Old 11-05-2012, 02:39 PM   #6
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I like what Charles Hayes said in The Rapture of Maturity (paraphrasing):

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Empathy is just a feeling. Compassion is an act.
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Old 11-05-2012, 03:22 PM   #7
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I had a patient whose finger got caught badly in a drawer last week. Her finger is quite swollen and blue and she protects it in many ways. The sight of bodily injuries doesn't generaly affects me, in the sense that I don't feel like I will faint or anything.

Althought, that one time looking at her finger, the way she protected and talked about it, I actually kind of felt a «pain» myself. 3 successive pinching or squizzing sensation of short duration in my Lx-Sx, almost pelvic area. I find that funny. Can it be a form of compassion?

I have this feeling sometimes when I visualize someone's accident. But really not all the time. It's as if I have to relate in some way to feel it.
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Old 11-05-2012, 05:29 PM   #8
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I had a patient whose finger got caught badly in a drawer last week. Her finger is quite swollen and blue and she protects it in many ways. The sight of bodily injuries doesn't generaly affects me, in the sense that I don't feel like I will faint or anything.

Althought, that one time looking at her finger, the way she protected and talked about it, I actually kind of felt a «pain» myself. 3 successive pinching or squizzing sensation of short duration in my Lx-Sx, almost pelvic area. I find that funny. Can it be a form of compassion?

I have this feeling sometimes when I visualize someone's accident. But really not all the time. It's as if I have to relate in some way to feel it.
I have sympathetic pain all the time with both my wife and daughter. My wife had some condition that needed surgery and as I read about it I was feeling pain and I got so dizzy I thought I was going to pass out. Its funny because the sight of these things, even gory things, hardly effect me, but reading about them or hearing them described almost always does.

This only happens for these two, as far as I know.
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Old 11-05-2012, 10:33 PM   #9
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Great comments.

If I understand you correctly Randy, you would say that the process of compassion (even if it did increase suffering temporarily) would justify the end result of an action taken as a result of the desire to act that compassion had instilled and this leads to a reduction of suffering?

Quote:
Compassion - noun 1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Word Origin & History
compassion
mid-14c., from O.Fr. compassion, from L.L. compassionem (nom. compassio) "sympathy," from compassus, pp. of compati "to feel pity," from com- "together" + pati "to suffer" (see passion). Loan-translation of Gk. sympatheia.

Quote:
Empathy- noun 1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting becomes a mirror of the self.

Word Origin & History
empathy
1903, translation of Ger. Einfühlung (from ein "in" + Fühlung "feeling"), coined 1858 by Ger. philosopher Rudolf Lotze (1817-81) from Gk. empatheia "passion," from en- "in" + pathos "feeling" (see pathos). A term from a theory of art appreciation.

It is interesting to note that the word empathy was "created" in English after Nietzsche' was dead, and the German word Einfuhlung was coined during his lifetime.
I notice that compassion has a feeling and desire to act in the definition but does not have action as part of its meaning.

It seems that there should still be a separation between the feeling, the desire, and the actual action taken.

I don't mean to be overly pedantic about this, but I do find this discussion very interesting.
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