Devil's advocate

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Vociferous, Feb 5, 2018.

  1. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I don't disagree with that analysis, but I believe you have reversed the terms which describe our feelings witnessing or imagining the act.

    The thought of hacking someone to pieces alone brings emotions of horror and disgust to my mind (shiversssssss)

    Ask yourself could you really place yourself in the shoes of a criminally insane person, IOW, experience their emotions of elation while they commit what they consider an act of artistry? Can you emotionally experience that state of insanity? I doubt that, I should hope not.

    However, we can logically come to the conclusion that a criminally insane person is incurably mentally ill and a persistent danger to the community, because he is not capable of sympathy (feeling sorry) or empathy (experiencing their pain) for his victims. A criminally insane person doesn't feel anything for his victims, he delights in their exquisite misery. He identifies his victim as an object, not a person.

    In the case of hostage takers, negotiators always begin by identifying the hostage by name. A name bestows personhood, and is often effective in bringing an enraged person back to reality.

    But a criminally insane person is never enraged, on the contrary he is proud and experiences satisfaction from admiring his work.
    Feeling sorry is being sympathetic , not empathic. We don't lock them away permanently from our feelings of empathy with his condition, but from our feelings of sympathy for his condition.

    Let's put it in a less stark context. Autism is considered a sign of a defective mirroring system, which makes then unable to empathize, or in general interact (learning to imitate) normally with other people.

    Could you feel empathy, i.e. walk in the shoes of an autistic person, or would you feel sympathetic to his condition? It would seem mentally impossible to actually be empathetic to being autistic and vice versa.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
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  3. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    The extent of my empathy is knowing that I would have to be insane to behave like that. But I believe we started by talking murder in general, which is often motivated by very common emotions everyone is familiar with. It seems you're needing to take it to an extreme (bit of a reductio ad absurdum) to make your case, but empathy is not defined by extremes.
    I have zero sympathy for a murder. I don't pity them because they have done something that is beyond pity. I would pity a person who suffered the same, but had not killed someone. My sympathy ends where a life is taken.
    We lock them away out of sympathy? I think we lock them up to protect others and deter that behavior.
    Sentencing is usually about intent, and I don't see how sympathy is a factor in intent. I do see how empathy gives us some idea of how culpable they were.
    But I guess what they call a "bleeding-heart liberal" could make many decisions on sympathy alone. Early release for murderers, lighter sentencing, etc..
    I can certainly imagine what it would be like to be unable to read any social cues. Like a form of blindness and tone deafness.
    I don't automatically empathize with everyone I meet. So I regularly limit my own empathy. The autistic don't have this ability, so they cannot empathize at all. But since I do, I can certainly imagine opting not to empathize with anyone.
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  5. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

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  7. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Sympathy is a factor when a person is mentally ill and by definition cannot control his actions.

    Motive (intent) is a large part in judging guilt and meeting out punishment or restraint.

    Killing (murdering) someone in the act of self-defense often goes unpunished at all. Under the circumstances it was a necessity in preserving your own life. I can "sympathize" with that action.

    Sympathy and Empathy are somewhat related but are completely different emotions.
    One is removed from personal experience of the event itself, the other is a direct emotional motor response to witnessing an event.

    A little example; if you are a passenger in a car and a danger appears suddenly, have you ever pressed your foot down (trying to apply a brake) at the same time as the driver? That's an empathic response. Even though you have no control over the car at all, you share the same reality as the driver and experience the same mental emotional motor response of braking to avoid the danger. Sympathy has nothing to do with such a commonly shared experience.
  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I disagree and that's where I believe you have it backwards.
    You can opt not to sympathize with someone (he had it coming), but you cannot opt to control empathy (cringing while you watch someone (even a stranger) accidently hit his thumb with a hammer).
  9. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    I don't have to have any sympathy for the mentally ill at all to understand that, in their shoes, I couldn't be held as responsible as others.
    Intent is a measure of how responsible a person is for their actions. That's why we have involuntary manslaughter, premeditated murder, crimes of passion, etc..
    Self-defense is not legally defined as murder, so it seems you're grasping at straws a bit. Of course we can all both empathize and sympathize with self-defense.
    No, empathy is not solely a mirror neuron response, except maybe in animals. There is no witnessing necessary for either.

    Nor does empathy require the same stimuli.
    Again, empathy is not an autonomic response. I don't have to see or experience a loss myself to feel the sorrow of another. They could just be crying for no reason known to me. I can chose to feel their sadness, sympathize and try to comfort them, or both.

    You seem to only think of empathy in terms of somatic empathy. That is only one of many types of empathy regularly experienced.
  10. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I understand that there are subtle similarities between the two emotions.

    With the discovery of the Mirror Neural System, the differences between sympathy and empathy have become clearer. From the

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    IMO, the red highlighted sentence from the dictionary is a misleading analogy.
    a) we do not voluntarily "put" (or place) ourselves in the shoes of another. There is no decision making process which allows us to mentally experience what another mentally experiences.
    IMO, that would be akin to
    b) Empathy is "experiencing" the same mental/chemical response as another from observation. It is wholly involuntary.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  11. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    No, a deterrence which maximizes punishment is American stupidity. Reasonable deterrence is penalty proportional to the harm done.

    Say, there are stupid guys who argue for the death penalty for rape. But who wants rape victims been killed, given that for the rapist no deterrence is left over for deterring them from killing the victim? This certainly increases their chance of survival - murder victims do not go to the police to tell what they have seen - but the penalty remains the same so that killing the victim would become obligatory for rapists. So, reasonable deterrence would certainly not give the maximal penalty for rape.

    And the astronomical sentences one hears from the US is, of course, a good reason for a criminal to have a weapon and kill any police officer who tries to arrest him - say 135 years or so for almost nothing or the death penalty for a cop killer makes no big difference, so you will kill the cop if the only alternative is to get caught for 135 years. If instead, there would be only 1 year for almost nothing, you would not kill the cop - I would be deterred by the penalty for cop killing, and accept that 1 year for almost nothing. Not because it is just, but even if I would think that I have a right to do this and the law forbidding this is completely unjust and those who execute such unjust laws deserve killing.

    And, given that the cops want to survive too in such a world, the US gets all the cop violence, especially against those really somehow suspect of crimes, much more horrible than in Europe. Irrational high penalties are stupid, and stupid from point of view of deterrence.

    Penalty fitting the crime is rational deterrence. "Eye for an eye" is not the rule of love for criminals, it is the Old Testament rule for minimizing harm for your family in a society with the blood feud, where people had to care themselves about deterrence instead of leaving this to the state.

    "An eye for an eye" is, in fact, the most rational rule. The funny thing is that somehow in the propaganda it is considered to be somehow evil, amoral, cruel or so, in a situation where standard penalties for almost everything even in quite human Western legislation is, with a few exceptions, a violation of this rule.
  12. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    Yep, "could help explain ... why we empathize with others." Not does explain how we empathize. "Why" may be the motivating factor, but that does not encompass "how" we go about doing it.

    Also from the APA:
    Is empathy the result of gut intuition or careful reasoning? Research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that, contrary to popular belief, the latter may be more the case.

    “Cultivating successful personal and professional relationships requires the ability to accurately infer the feelings of others — that is, to be empathically accurate. Some are better at this than others, a difference that may be explained in part by mode of thought,” said Jennifer Lerner, PhD, of Harvard University, a co-author of the study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology®. “Until now, however, little was known about which mode of thought, intuitive versus systematic, offers better accuracy in perceiving another’s feelings.”
    There are also APA articles on teaching empathy:
    Did you know that there are ways to understand how other people think and feel? That's called empathy, and it is a skill you can learn!
    How could you teach empathy if it was "wholly involuntary"?

    Because our brain’s neural circuitry is malleable and can be rewired through neuroplasticity one's tendency for empathy and compassion is never fixed. We all need to practice putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes to reinforce the neural networks that allow us to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

    Even those suffering from so-called empathy deficit disorders like psychopathy and narcissism appear to be capable of empathy when they want to feel it. Research conducted by one of us, William A. Cunningham, along with the psychologist Nathan Arbuckle, found that when dividing money between themselves and others, people with psychopathic tendencies were more charitable when they believed that the others were part of their in-group. Psychopaths and narcissists are able to feel empathy; it’s just that they don’t typically want to.

    Empathy. Several studies suggest that mindfulness promotes empathy. One study, for example, looked at premedical and medical students who participated in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction training. It found that the mindfulness group had significantly higher self-reported empathy than a control group (Shapiro, Schwartz, & Bonner, 1998). In 2006, a qualitative study of therapists who were experienced meditators found that they believed that mindfulness meditation helped develop empathy toward clients (Aiken, 2006). Along similar lines, Wang (2007) found that therapists who were experienced mindfulness meditators scored higher on measures of self-reported empathy than therapists who did not meditate.
    I agree. That's why we weight the intent. So the punishment fits the crime.
    I don't know any Americans who blindly push for maximizing punishment.
    Schmelzer likes this.
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Watching these two "debate" has its entertaining moments.

    The context - this thread - offers the fun interpretation that they are each making an ad hominem Devil's Advocate argument.
    ( Both of those guys are Trump backers in straight life - Trump being the beloved leader of those Americans most in favor of maximizing punishments as a deterrence for low level crimes, and on record favoring torture as an interrogation method).
  14. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    Maybe you missed the OP. This thread is not where I'm playing devil's advocate, though others are free to.
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Too bad - it was a fun take.
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I don't agree that empathy can be taught except by personal experience, which forms an which causes a physical chemical response and a cognitive imprint on the mirror neural system.
    You cannot teach the experience of "pain" unless you have experienced it personally in some form.

    I will admit that all experiences are a form of learning, but to suggest empathic response to pain can be taught by an instructor, your teacher would have to actually inflict physical pain on you. You cannot learn experience from reading a book.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  17. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    If you have not been playing Devil's Advocate, then I'm sorry to say "you're just wrong".........

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  18. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    Who said anything about teaching "the experience of pain"?
    Teaching empathy is about expanding one's theory of mind to include not only understanding that others have their own thoughts and feeling, but that you can relate to them personally.
    And if you have not, I must say, you are woefully uninformed.
  19. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    No, that is not correct. You can teach the definition of pain. In fact you can look it up in the dictionary.
    But you cannot teach the experience of pain unless you actually inflict it or experience it yourself.
    Well, I have done some research into the subject of the mirror neural system and according to the latest research, the MNS is the seat for empathy, because your brain is able to mirror the observed action of another and produce the same chemical response from personal experience, which mirrors the chemical physical response of the other.

    Have you ever cringed watching someone hurt themselves? Have you ever produced saliva watching someone eat a delicious piece of food, or even when thinking about it? Have you ever yawned when watching someone else yawn? Have you ever consulted your own timepiece, when someone else looks at their watch?
    Those are "mirror" functions of the brain.

    How many times have you seen children imitate the actions of their parents or of other children being silly?
    Have you ever watched boxers performing shadow boxing against their own mirror image?

    Have you ever watched someone do something and instantly know they are doing it right or wrong?
    This how the MNS works, creating an instant mental cognition of any action which you yourself have experienced in the past.

    Ever used the expression "what the hell does he think he is doing" when watching someone do something which might be stupid or dangerous and is something which you have tried yourself before and failed.

    Those are not expressions of sympathy, but empathic expressions of mirrored cognition of another's action and intent by the MNS and from that cognition and mental projection, we can stand "holding our breath" in anticipation of the disaster which is sure to follow.

    And when the person actually fails and hurts himself, you cringe and say "I saw that coming the moment he started".

    Only then do you go to the person and offer sympathy, something like "I know how you must feel right now, I tried that myself a long time ago and landed right in the same spot".

    The ability for empathy has nothing to do with theory of mind (except to explain how the mirror neural system functions).

    Empathy is "experienced" (an abstract participation producing the same chemical functions) during an event.
    Sympathy is the acknowledgement of "feeling sorry" after the event.
  20. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    Again, who said anything about teaching "the experience of pain"?
    I have too. Maybe you should study a few other subjects?
    Mirror neurons provide a template for abstracting the thoughts/feelings of others (theory of mind). But humans can go beyond only reacting to similar stimuli. That's what cognitive abstraction means.
    The mirror neuron system is only the primitive precursor for human empathy. Our intellect has broadened that ability.
    If you can't see how abstraction allows for more than simple abstraction of one person's stimuli to another, I think we're at an impasse.
  21. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    In effect, you did. Empathy is experiencing the same chemical reactions which produce the same emotional experience in the observer as in the observed. This cannot be taught, only emotionally experienced. You cannot teach emotion, you can describe and define it. But unless you experience emotional empathy any teaching is just words.
    If you can recommend a link I'd be grateful.
    I admit that I invented the term and may have confused the issue, the term does not seem to exist.

    Brittanica only defines "abstraction" (cognitive process):

    Perhaps I should have used "cognitive emotion". But I'm sure you would not agree to that either so lets test it.

    How can you verbally teach the emotional/physical experience of "freefalling"? You can describe it, but the only way to experience it is on a big and fast roller coaster in an amusement park (lots of screaming) and I think they also make you experience it during parachute training in the military. Bungy dropping you from a 50' high tower or using a wind tunel.
    These things cannot be abstracted except as theory. They must be experienced to understand your body's reactions to great stress.
    If you have been in a war you will be able to empathize with PTSD (shellshock) and sympathize with the family which has to deal with it's symptoms.
    I never said that was not the case. In fact I specifically mentioned that the MNS allows you to abstractly anticipate what comes next.
    Experiencing is very, very different than simple abstraction of one person's stimuli to another. (Does statement even make sense?) Empathy is not a mental abstraction, it is a simultaneous emotional experience. Watch a football game and witness a mass empathic response when the home team scores.

    Abstracting is conscious thinking, a dispassionate mental classroom exercise.
    Experiencing is an involuntary emotional experience, producing the exact same real chemical physical reactions in the observer as in the observed

    I am an excellent swimmer and not in the least uncomfortable in the water, I can free dive to about 40' and I
    used to train diving with the Dutch Olympic diving team. High Tower, no problem. Swan dives, no problem. Backward diving, no problem. This was during my HS days. School was next to the indoor swimming pool.

    Later, in the US, I was playing with a small band in Las Vegas, I went scuba diving with some ex-UDT divers (then bar tenders) in Lake Havasu, and after some brief instructions in case of trouble, we dived down to 100'. It was a great experience, until after awhile I experienced Nitrogen Narcosis from improper breathing for that depth.

    I can tell you that no amount of abstraction (except perhaps under the influence of LSD) can compare to the disorientation I experienced. I had a distinct feeling of spinning and lost all sense of what was up or down. My mind was no longer in control.

    After I rapped on my tank to let my buddies know I was in trouble, they rushed to assist me. One picked up an empty beer-can, filled it with air and let it go. The intent was to show me which was up. In my confused state I thought he was making fun of me. The other diver had a speargun. As he was swimming towards me it was pointed at me. For a moment I thought he was going to kill me.

    It took all the logic and reason I could muster to convince myself they were my friends and were coming to help me, at which time they both signaled to me which way was up and grabbed my arms and started ascending, while signaling that all was well and blowing air bubbles to show me to breathe normally. At about 30' we halted for what seemed to be a long time, to allow my body to absorb the excess nitrogen, after which we ascended to the surface. It was an experience I shall never forget.

    Everytime I see a scuba diver enter the water, I feel the rush of anxiety I experienced that time. This mirror impression has now diminished and I have practically forgotten how close I came to death, had my diving buddies not been there to help me. Their professional experience and empathy with my predicament saved me, which I shall never forget. Later they told me this happens often with rookie divers and even if you manage to make it to the surface, the bends (expanded nitrogen bubbles) may kill you anyway. This why deep water research vessels always have a decompression chamber, for precisely that purpose.

    This you cannot teach in a classroom as an abstract mental exercise, soon forgotten, unless you are an avid diver.

    I am too old now to scuba dive, but the experience taught me the dangers of over-confidence and lack of rigorous practice before entering a hostile domain.

    I am afraid you are underestimating the depth and importance of the MNS in the sequence from subconscious cognition, to conscious action.

    p.s. In water the atmospheric pressure doubles in the first 30'. If @30' down you take a deep breath from your tank and hold it while ascending, you can blow your lungs apart.

    p.p.s. did you ever watch the Anil Seth presentation on Ted talks? If not, I recommend it.
    He addresses the phenomena of empathy which we use everyday in many subtle ways.[/QUOTE]
  22. Vociferous Registered Senior Member

    No, not in effect or otherwise. That is wholly your straw man.
    No one said natural reactions could be taught.
    You can teach people to recognize the same emotions they feel in others, and through their own experience of those same emotions, feel how others do.
    Quite a few here:
    You keep erecting the straw man "teach experience".
    Yet, you seem to deny everything people can abstract outside of direct stimuli. That seems pretty primitive.

    If you only think abstraction is a dispassionate mental exercise then we are at an impasse. No need to continue, as you're not likely to ever understand.
  23. Schmelzer Valued Senior Member

    First, my argument was not ad hominem. But about a particular content, namely the question if rational deterrence means high penalties.
    Then, I'm not a "Trump backer", Trump is simply less evil than Clinton, that's the main point. What I like is what he is doing in foreign policy, because it is, in fact, a destruction of the American empire. (Intentional or not is something one can argue about, but is not really important.) Given that I consider the American empire as the most dangerous thing for humanity, this is something I'm comfortable with. The other thing I like is that he destroys political correctness. But these few points, while important, certainly do not mean that I would have to support whatever Trump is doing. I consider high penalties as one of the most stupid things in America. And even if it is also one of the most dangerous things which American culture brings to other countries, it is most of all an American problem. So, not my problem.

    So, my argument is neither ad hominem nor Devil's advocate.

    Instead, it looks like a clear case of projection combined with black-white thinking on your side. You think I support Trump, thus, I have to support everything supported by Trump, and especially those things you hate most.

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