[-empyre-] Before the Law / control and cutting, stripped naked
Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Mon Oct 29 00:40:06 EST 2012
empathy is vital, and moral.
habitual and normal
yes, we could go into a longer debate here. I find your response, Simon, and what you added in your subsequent paragraphs, very thought-provoking, and also very moving as I comprehend what you say about the absence and strangeness to oneself; tried to understand it this summer when visiting an elderly neighbor who had suffered from strokes and pneumonia and had drifted into advanced state of dementia while being taken care of in a hospice with daily extended visits of his daughter; when I visited him with his daughter, I was drawn and repelled to observe both of them in their inexplicably tender, soft, demanding, forgiving, irritating, stubborn and infantilizing, infuriating, humorous, and oblivious couple-dom they seem to have forged as he was subjected to what you call the operation. He was completely indifferent to me, a stranger as you say, and i wondered whether he indeed knew the caregiver was his daughter or whether she was stranger too, and he to himself and whether this was experiencable as a disaster, a pain and suffering, or again a strangeness beyond words, pain-less?
I think we sometimes make quick statements to cut through something, or strip something, so when I stated empathy is vital I said that because I believe in such a political ethics (and this came through in the discussions on state violence and state terror), as a necessity to deal with others and respect others; the same would operate, vitally, in a village community, or in a barrio in the city, in an apartment building, in an office, a school, a company, a team, en ensemble? without empathy, and hospitality and curiosity and love (the latter also related in some sense to the idea of duty of care, the pastoral, the familial), no community would function.
I do not think mirror neurons are the same as empathy, but i am not a neuroscientist, and the tests i saw had to do with motorsensory functions organized to some extent by the bodybrain and what neural networks do as we imitate / replicate actions and as we learn to rebuild or form (plasticity). How to you form or rebuild emotional empathy, grasping of pain, translating of pain?
I'd argue, not having heard of C. Malabou and her hypothesis on 'cerebrality' (trauma- conditioned?) before, that the thesis about indifference is worth taking into account here.
One would have assumed that empathy does, and does not work habitually. Autism has lately been called a social phase state that many seemed to have gone into, lack of empathy has been decried in many instances,
and I'd say that in many cases I do feel (even though i am not suffering from war, terror and trauma) indifferent to other's pain, as i feel indifferent to my own.
Then how is this habitual and normal? what are the "technologies of self" (Foucault) needed to actually develop care of self (a basis for understanding care of others?), rather than become drawn into the many psychopathologies normally at work and existing in our societies, promoted and hyped and mediated on a daily level, the self-loathing and punitive and self-harming and grossly humiliating entertainment societies, bathed in the excess of criminality and disasters needed reporting for our daily fix, we live in?
Antonio Damasio (e.g. Looking for Spinoza) shows, to simplify, the material neuronal causes of such feelings as empathy in the brain. Catherine Malabou goes further. She invents in The New Wounded, self-consciously, the philosophical concept of "cerebrality" to provide an aetiology for psychic events. She cites the argument of Bruno Bettelheim implying a shared causality of psychological symptoms in autists and mussulmen - the 1000 yard stare and - why I bring it in to this discussion - the indifference.
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