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Re: [existlist] Re: ok now boys and girls

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  • eupraxis@aol.com
    Jim, Thanks again. Yes, Kantianism is rarely cited as wellspring of compassion and empathy, as such. Of course, he was always being rather formal in his
    Message 1 of 12 , Aug 30, 2007
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      Thanks again.

      Yes, Kantianism is rarely cited as wellspring of compassion and empathy, as such. Of course, he was always being rather formal in his writings, especially after his "Critical" period. Some of his earlier, youthful, writings show a 'different' Kant, even a humorous one, at times, but I do not remember much in the way of anything 'personable' in them. I have chuckled at a few jokes in Kant (his description of common-sensists is the Prolegomena as "windbags", or his lampooning of religious artifacts in On the Sublime, for example), but I cannot ever remember having to dry any empathic tears over the years.....


      -----Original Message-----
      From: jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...>
      To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Thu, 30 Aug 2007 11:04 am
      Subject: [existlist] Re: ok now boys and girls


      Thank you for your response (your post 42100) to my short remarks

      about empathy, Kant and reason (my post 42100).

      The expressions "actual empathy" and "reasoned compassion" were

      originally Trinidad's, so perhaps he is the best one to comment on

      your remarks, but I think what you write fits in with Trinidad's

      thought (see his post 42086, second paragraph).

      I agree with what you write about Kant on reason. I'm not sure in my

      own mind how far I agree with Kant. As I say, I think he expects our

      use of reason to get us all the way to being compassionate, but I

      think we need to harness our emotions as well.

      Anyway, that was the line of thought behind my final sentence, which

      you didn't like. Here is my sentence, which you suggest is more

      utilitarian than existential:

      "Human beings, and philosophers, need strong (positive, optimistic)


      and vivid imaginations, as well as clear logical thinking."

      What I was trying to say was this: Kant thinks we can become

      compassionate purely through the use of reason ("clear logical

      thinking"), however if we assume that a person can only act

      compassionately if they first have the feeling of empathy (as I

      interpreted Trinidad as arguing), then we must ask: what is required

      for an individual to have empathy?

      This was where my strong feelings and vivid imagination came in. For

      me to feel empathy for a suffering person whose life is very

      different from my own, I need to have a vivid imagination – to

      imagine what it is like for that person. And for me to be motivated

      to get up off my back-side and do something to help the suffering

      person, I need strong feelings, or something like Kierkegaard's

      passion, which is better thought of as "resolute commitment".

      When I did my research in analytical philosophy departments, I met

      lots of very clever people, whose reasoning skills were fantastic.

      But they still failed to impress me as human beings, as they seemed

      to lack some of the caring emotions like empathy.

      So in my sentence I was trying to capture all the various

      psychological characteristics necessary for a well-rounded human

      being, who might even count as an "authentic individual" in Sartrian


      Perhaps you are right to suggest that in trying to describe the

      virtuous person or the authentic individual, I am moving away from

      existentialism and towards something like utilitarianism.


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