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Reading notes The Empathic Civilization.docx

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Social Science
SOSC 1520
John Hutcheson

Reading notesThe Empathic Civilization by Jeremy RifkinThe Hidden Paradox of Human HistoryJeremy Rifkin believes we are in a race to global empathy to avoid the collapse of civilization through entropy Recent discoveries in brain science in child development are forcing us to rethink longheld belief that human beings are by nature aggressive materialistic utilitarian and selfinterested The irony is that our growing empathic awareness has been made possible by an ever greater consumption of the Earths energy and other resources resulting in a dramatic deterioration in the health of the planetDuring the Christmas of World War I 1914 something amazing happened there was a surreal Christmas truce tween the frontline trenches soldiers forgot their alliances forgot their duties enjoying the Christmas carols even playing soccer games with the opposing force This was to show their common humanity An enlightened philosopher Thomas Hobbes claims that humans are born into the world as blank slates yet they are still acquisitive by nature Hobbes claims that humans exist for one purpose and ultimate mission to be productive Jeremy Bentham qualified the idea of happiness by suggesting that the human condition boils down to the avoidance of pain and optimization of pleasure Sigmund Freud twisted Jeremys theory and sexualized everything Jeremy Rifkin argues that what transpired in the fields of Flanders on Christmas Eve 1914 was neither productive sexual avoidance of pain or the optimization of pleasure It was human empathy for one another 78history rarely records moments of empathy Moments recorded in history are usually moments of human misery often rebellions exploitation of others writings of wrongness and restoring justice By looking at human history to understand human nature it is easy to come to the conclusion that humans are aggressive materialistic utilitarian and selfinterested However the everyday world is quite different Media only reports sensational news stories that often have negative connotationThe precursor to the word empathy was the word sympathy Adam Smith wrote books on moral sentiments but was far better known for his theory of the marketplace The term of the is taken from aesthetics and began to be used to describe the mental process by which one person enters into anothers being and comes in know how they feel and think The pathy in empathy suggest that we enter into the emotional state of anothers suffering and feel his or her pain as if it were our own Empathic means to empathize Sympathy is more passive empathy conjures up active engagementUtilitarians and Christians believe that animals are soulless automatons However biologists talk about mirror neurons socalled empathy there is an established the genetic predisposition for empathetic response across some of the mammalian kingdom Example Feline LoversCivilization is to detribal isolation of blood ties and the resocialization of distinct individuals based on associational ties Empathic extension is the psychological mechanism that makes conversion and transition possible When we say civilized we need to empathize 24The Laws of Thermodynamics and Human Developmentthe first and second laws of thermodynamics state that the total energy content of the universe is constant and the total entropy is continually increasing Energy always flows in one direction from hot to cold concentrated to dispersed ordered to disordered The loss of energy is called entropy Energy is continually being transformed from an available to an unavailable stateChapter 2 the New View of Human NatureIn Freuds perspective humans are materialistic selfinterested and sexually driven Fully believes that society exists as a compromise in exchange for the possibilities of happiness for a portion of security Freud also explored a concept called the death instinct this included sadism and masochism Fairbairn argues against Freuds theory claiming that human nature is centered on the forms of social relationships to the development of the psyche and selfhood The destructive drive is not intrinsic to mans makeup but rather an expression of the failure to build trusting relationships 60Winniscott claims that relationship precedes an individual not the other way around In other words individuals dont create society Rather society creates individuals 62It is only when the mother refuses to give herself to the infant or reject gestures of affection or gifts from the baby that anxiety hate aggression which Freud mistakes for a primary instinct and the quest for power because they manifest themselves 66Psychoanalyst David Levy observed the group of orphans and noticed that they displayed psychopathic personalities because they lack a maternal figure The children were unable to form relationships and were lost in a destructive fantasy life directed both against the world and themselves 67Harry Bakwinhead of a pediatric unit in 1931 noticed a high mortality rate of infants in hospitals Infants were kept in isolation and experienced 30 to 75mortality rates It was only after Bakwin ordered new signs put up across the pediatric unit that right do not enter this nursery without picking up the baby That death and infection rates declined and babies begin to thrive 68the job of the parent is to be able to create the right balance between maintaining secure attachment and at the same time encouraging independent exploration the child will develop a healthy sense of self and acquire the appropriate emotional maturity to engage others and develop meaningful relationships If however apparently not able to provide a sense of warmth and security and allow the infant to explore the world the child will grow up with an arrested sense of self and be unable to enter into more than superficial relationships with others 73
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