Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Part 21: (Self Love, the Natural Master and the Natural Slave?): Dialogues on a Philosophy for the Individual

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)

With this post Flora Sapio and I (and friends from time to time) continue an experiment in collaborative dialogue. The object is to approach the issue of philosophical inquiry from another, and perhaps more fundamentally ancient, manner. We begin, with this post, to develop a philosophy for the individual that itself is grounded on the negation of the isolated self as a basis for thought, and for elaboration. This conversation, like many of its kind, will develop naturally, in fits and starts. Your participation is encouraged. For ease of reading Flora Sapio is identified as (FS), and Larry Catá Backer as (LCB).

The friends continue their discussion around the problem of the individual and the liberation project, and particularly the problem of the individual self in which the friends touch on the issue of narcissism and the self.

Contents: HERE

(FS) Selective compassion is one of the worst forms of self narcissism.

(LCB) Narcissism is the internal satisfaction of outward projection of the self. This is the private form of extraterritoriality. Compassion in this sense is little more than the power to control others in one's own image. And in this sense it projects the ideology of the natural slave onto others through other means.

(FS) ... and none of us is a living Buddha or a saint but...if I empathize or feel compassion for living being x, I should experience the same feelings for living being y too... Too abstract? Serious question. In this respect narcissism is a false feeling, generated by a "weak" self. Do I sound like a fascist?

(LCB) Both Aristotle and Confucius again overshadow the possibility of discussion. To sound like a fascist suggests forms of radical authoritarian nationalism--but isn't that precisely the narcissism of compassion? Isn't that the forms of control through compassion of the great waqfs, the NGOs operation form rich into poor states and societies? That is also a form of radical authoritarian nationalism, where the person, or the organization itself serves as a mirror of itself reflected in its subjects--those who must perform for their rewards--the compassion of those who control access to material or other needs.

(BHP) Dears, Flora Sapio Imperatrix Maris, Larry Catá Backer and Chiara Menegazzi, often the word "narcissism" is used in the common sense, pejoratively, to describe an excess of appreciation for yourself. For psychoanalysis, it is a fundamental aspect for the constitution of the subject. Somewhat of love for you is required to confirm and sustain self-esteem. I think the exaggeration, as in everything, is a problem.

I like the vast majority of human characteristics. I don't like the evil, and i don't like the lack of generosity. Regarding the word compassion, in Portuguese this word means a feeling of regret that man feels when know others' ills, and a willingness to help who needs. Already the word empathy , which is a word I like a lot, means the ability for an individual to identify with the other. Se put in place the other person to try to understand it. Can feel what the other feels. Obviously are words with different meanings. Particularly, I consider empathy a very important word for man. I think it from the practice, of what this word means, is that man can actually gain in terms of civilization.

As to the reasons that lead an individual, or an organization the do good for others , can be several reasons, including marketing (personal or organizational), is usual, this is always done. I think what matters truly, in the end, for those who need it is the end result of this "doing good". About these actions you guys commented, if even when they analyzed in detail they show themselves hypocrites at least some may receive the help they require. Some is better than nothing. The ideal is that all individual on earth, could have the conditions necessary for have a good life. But this is not reality. Unfortunately.

As to the selective compassion, it exists. All individual or organization has to make choices. Have to select. Help everyone, is humanly impossible, and from the point of view of an organization is a suicide. Any organization, as well as any individual to survive in our world, which is the only one world to which we have access at the moment, need a plan. A plan presupposes the existence of limits. In this case, exceed the limits, may cause damage or disallow that a dream or a goal is reached.

(FS) Virtue always stands in the middle.

(LCB) Indeed, Flora, and Betita is right to point out that compassion, standing alone, tells us little of the individual as producer or object of compassion. Yet compassion also provides a window into the power relationships, the outward expression, of inward self construction. When compassion is selected, when it is used instrumentally, it ceases to be compassion. Rather it acquires the character of metaphor applied--it is the outward expression of the insight that the object of compassion is a natural slave, an object whose own sense of self may be obliterated and substituted for that of the provider of compassion. That is selective compassion--the projection outward of inward construction. The recipient is necessarily obliterated in the process, and that is possible only if one embraces the notion of an individual who is incapable of authentic self construction. And thus we move from St. Francis back to Aristotle, and from the construction of the self to the construction of the state, an insight shared both by Aristotle and Confucius. In both cases, the fundamental assumption is of the power of self constructed "other" for the weaker (needier) self. That is the way in which the social order is constructed; that is the way in which relationships are constructed, and the way in which the self is obliterated in the shadow of compassion selectively, and instrumentally applied.

What does that mean for the project of the individual? First it suggests a political element to the project, at least relating to the outward constraints on inward self construction. Reflexivity is indeed bounded by political relationships that are difficult to resist. Second, it suggests the double semiosis of individual self construction. That self construction is bounded both by an inward self dialogue and an outward dialogue in which the dialogue is not with the self. Third, it suggests that the choices that Betita points to, when an element of selectivity, cannot be rendered outside of the instrumental context in which it is made. To select means to export onto others the choices one made for oneself. It requires a sharing, under the compulsion of compassion, of the self construction of the giver. Narcissism here is not so much about the self as the projection of self onto others. And the assumption that such projection is possible depends in part on the further assumption that those who are made to submit to the terms of compassion are themselves not authentically entitled to the integrity of their standard. Now that is narcissism!

But Flora tells us that none of us are living Buddhas or saint. And that is true. For that would provide the opposite of selective compassion. It would point to compassion that emanates inward and in whose shadow the other might themselves find their own path, a radiation outward that provides permission for similar journeys, an extension of response to expressed need, not without judgment, but without a change of action grounded in judgment. Compassion without selectivity. But does that require empathy? Must one become the other to exercise compassion without narcissism? I suspect that produces inverted narcissism, but narcissism nonetheless. I am not sure it is so much a false feeling, as Flora suggests with some power. Perhaps it might be as useful to view this inverted narcissism as self projection as well. For isn't this sort of empathy one in which one substitutes one's sense of the other for the other within the self. If I experience the same feelings as "Y" means only that I experience myself as "Y", and then project that back onto "Y". But what I am experiencing is myself in "Y". I obliterate "Y" in the act of empathy, and then use my reconstruction of the empathized"Y" to determine my relationship to "Y" in the form of compassion--my own reaction to and service for "Y", which, if selective, will be conditioned on my reconstruction of "Y". I have again merely satisfied myself!

(BHP) Yes Flora, but remember virtue is a particular moral quality. It is an attribute of what is in accordance with what is considered correct or expected. Which is in accordance with the religion, with morality, ethics etc. And we can not be judges of the world. In addition, makes part of being, and of acting as a "righteous person" (who I think is one of man's objectives) understand the different realities, both those personal as those corporate. The virtues can be different. Larry Catá Backer!

1 comment:

Flora Sapio said...

Should one choose the pursuit of a virtue as one's final goal, and if so, which is the virtue one should pursue: justice, temperance, prudence or courage? Should one instead care for the self? What you refer to as self-love or self-esteem has got many sides, with 'true' empathy and 'true' compassion being only two of them.

Non-selective compassion is the outward manifestation of empathy, and it is therefore grounded in empathy, but here a distinction should be made between 'true' empathy, and the false empathy that is either projected onto us or implated in us.

Substituting one's sense of the other for what the other really is – a mere projection of one's self onto the other! Any projection of one's own psychological, cognitive or emotional states (regardless of whether these are actual states or ideal states) onto the other is not empathy, but potentially a subtle form of emotional violence – empathy is based on an entirely different dynamic. Let me try to make this clear by specifying what you cannot do when you empathize with others.

You cannot experience or perceive the same feelings as the other, because empathy does not involve the senses or the intellect, but a different mode of knowing. To use a metaphor, you can only “receive” or “capture” the other's physical, emotional, psychological or cognitive states in the same way as a radio receiver receives radio waves, or as the ear receives sound waves.

Each one of the different states susceptible of being captured is a specific state, it subsists here and now, and it involves first and foremost the individual who is experiencing it. Each one of us is a unique being endowed with attributes that despite their similarity will never be identic. Given the difference in individual attributes, no two different individuals will experience the same physical, emotional, psychological or cognitive states. These states may be and often are exceptionally similar, but they will never be completely identical.

Therefore, even though you can sense a given state of the other as the other is experiencing it, and you can know what the given state of the other is, and what the other feels in going through that state, you cannot experience yourself as the other. You are sensing only a limited part of the other. Any psychological, emotional, cognitive state will involve one or more different “strata” and sides of the self – and obviously the self has deeper and more superficial strata and multiple sides. Ordinary cognitive, psychological, emotional states of the self are a temporary condition, and even though there are states that truly involve almost the entire totality of the self, such states do not occur ordinarily. Also some strata and sides of the self, some states and experiences can be known only by the self.

Can you project back onto the other the state you've captured? Of course you can! But under the best case scenario this would only be a sad attempt at psychological and emotional colonization, rather than true empathy. True empathy involves providing an appropriate response to whatever state has been sensed, and this is where the transition from true empathy to non-selective compassion occurs. An appropriate response is a response that is beneficial to the other. Most would assume that the best response would be responding positively to negative states – repaying hatred with love, or responding positively to positive states – repaying kindness with kindness, while in reality each person requires a different and non-standard kind of response...

True compassion and selective compassion, true empathy and false empathy cannot know one another - their signal paths travel on different wavelengths, but the individual who wants to practice the care of the self can choose to attune herself to a different and non-destructive frequency.