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Empathy and the Conscience

Discussion in 'Ethics and Morals' started by SigurdReginson, May 17, 2021.

  1. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    Does one's conscience depend on the ability to empathize, or can the conscience and empathy exist independently? It seems to me that one's conscience can't be triggered if people can't understand or don't think about how other folks experience things. What are your thoughts on this?
     
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  2. darkskies

    darkskies Active Member

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    Not necessarily. For example if you feel suicide is inherently wrong, it has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks/feels. You have a conscience and don't require empathy in this case.
     
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  3. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    Hmmm... Does the idea of suicide trigger your conscience? It does when I think of other people doing it, but me? No. It's not a thought in my mind in terms of myself, because it's not a thought I ever really seriously entertain. Even if I did, my conscience wouldn't play a part in it.

    That said, I can see it bothering one's conscience if they were religious because of how it might effect god's feelings on the matter. When I was a christian, the thought of breaking god's laws and sinning did trigger my conscience (such as with lying).
     
  4. Gargovic Malkav

    Gargovic Malkav Active Member

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    When I was little, I'm pretty sure I did not have the ability to understand or care about what went on in others.
    Still I think I had something of a conscience.

    When I was little, I poured some salt in our dog's eye to see if it would hurt.
    Apparently I was clever enough not to try it on myself because I thought it was likely it would hurt.
    But as soon as I did it and saw how the dog began to whimper and tried to rub the salt out of its eye, I panicked.

    I think my discomfort was not so much based on feeling bad for the dog, but rather, the fear of the trouble I would get when my parents find out.

    Later in life I gradually developed the skill to understand others through their point of view(of course one might argue whether this is really true, or a delusion, as it is not uncommon imo that people like to see themselves as such while it is not true). I also learned that even though empathy goes a long way, there are people who don't possess it themselves and some of them try to use your own love and/or understanding for others against you to make you dance on their leash because their world falls apart when they feel they are not on top of everything.
    My empathy tells me that I don't like to disappoint or anger such people, but my conscience tells me that I have to under some circumstances.
     
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  5. darkskies

    darkskies Active Member

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    Not mine, no. But I've heard of it from others.
    Maybe it's called something else? Just instinct?
     
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  6. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    Hmmm... Well, that's interesting. I kind of wonder if everyone is on the same page now as to how they experience a triggering of their conscience, or if the function of the conscience is the same for everyone.

    I wouldn't say that fear of getting in trouble would trigger my conscience. That specifically would trigger a rush of adrenaline and a feeling of panic. To me, my conscience would be triggered when an action I did would hurt or badly influence someone else - especially if it was unnecessary or if I didn't exhaust all other options first. To me, a triggering of my conscience feels like a deep cringing. I hesitate and immediately second guess what it is that I'm about to do.

    Is this a universal thing, or does everyone experience something different?
     
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  7. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    So very interesting... Describe to me what the function of your conscience is, and how do you experience a triggering of your conscience?
     
  8. Gargovic Malkav

    Gargovic Malkav Active Member

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    I began to feel these things too when I reached early adulthood I think.
    Though, I may have had some of it earlier but only for those I personally knew; the people of my "tribe".
    When in most of my teens, I was depressed and full of hate.
    I remember clubbing a young goose to death once, I just wanted to kill something.
    This point in my life really felt like a moral intersection in hindsight.
    Part of me felt disgusted with myself, because for some inexplicable reason it just felt wrong.
    Abstract fantasies and sensations in my mind made me feel guilty about what I had done.
    Another part of me made me feel like I was finally successful at something, and that I wasn't a wimp because most others wouldn't dare doing such a thing.
    On the contrary, the idea that it would frighten and outrage others and saw me as something alien and/or monstrous was, in a way, appealing to me.

    I think the fear of permanent change in my life and the fear of losing even that little I felt I still had left prevented me to embrace that thought.

    I guess this thread may help us answering that question.
     
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  9. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    I think that people can have a conscience but that does not mean they will also be empathetic. I think that true empathy comes from having suffered in one's own life because in that case we can understand how others feel who are suffering. How can one really empathize unless they know what it is like to suffer?
     
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  10. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    I for one feel guilty when my conscience is triggered. I used to feel guilty all the time but not as much anymore.
    That might be because I punish myself so much that I pay for the guilt. None of this is related to my religion, it's all childhood stuff. Sometimes I like that God is punishing me but that is probably because I feel guilty and deserve to be punished. These are feelings but in my conscious mind I know better, I think. o_O
     
  11. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    I for one feel guilty when my conscience is triggered. I used to feel guilty all the time but not as much anymore.
    That might be because I punish myself so much that I pay for the guilt. None of this is related to my religion, it's all childhood stuff. Sometimes I like that God is punishing me but that is probably because I feel guilty and deserve to be punished. These are feelings but in my conscious mind I know better, I think. o_O
     
  12. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    Hmm... That's an extremely interesting story, though it is kind of alien for me. I don't think I've ever felt the need to kill anything. As someone who's hunted and fished, I have done the deed plenty of times, though.

    My first time when I was hunting, I wounded a doe. I had to take a pistol and put the deer out of it's misery at point blank with a shot to between the eyes. I didn't hesitate and did what needed to be done. Though I didn't feel remorse at the time, in future hunting trips I tended to "miss" a lot. I would say my conscience did play a part in that, as that same cringing feeling would direct me to aim a little more widely than I knew I should.

    Fear has never played a part in my conscience or the way in which it triggers, but guilt has. Not guilt of what was, or what will be, but guilt of what might be. The thought that my consequences might effect someone negatively is a big factor. Needless to say, I'm a pretty terrible liar.

    It's kind of weird to analyze, but it seems like something I seem to have taken for granted. Maybe not everyone sees the color green the same way, after all. :D Unlike colors, though, feelings are things we can relate via language.

    I think you might be right about that!
     
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  13. darkskies

    darkskies Active Member

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    Conscience is just a conscious acknowledgement of whether my act is considered moral (to me). It doesn't need a function. I mentioned instinct because that has triggers. Like a will to live.
     
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  14. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    Hmmm, maybe... There are things I can empathise with that I have no direct understanding of, though. I might need to stretch my brain, and my perceptions of what they endure are based on guesses and my own ignorance, but often times I can still empathise to some degree, I find.

    Hmm... Is guilt the only thing you feel? Does more go into it than guilt? It does for me.
     
  15. SigurdReginson

    SigurdReginson Grēne Mann
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    Oh, interesting. Are you saying that for you, your conscience is more of a conscious weighing of the good vs. the bad? For me, it's much more instinctual - like the feeling that I need to recoil my hand when I touch something that was hotter than I initially expected. It's all very automatic and instant for me.
     
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  16. RestlessSoul

    RestlessSoul Active Member

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    I think everyone suffers; some more than others perhaps, but we all know pain. There’s no escaping it imo.

    For some, their experience of pain provokes compassion, and causes them to reach out and try to relieve the suffering they see in others.

    For some, their experience of pain provokes rage, and causes them to lash out and inflict pain on others, thus perpetuating an apparently unending cycle.

    These are two extremes. Many of us vacillate between these poles, perhaps without realising it.
    Having a conscience helps steer us towards the better path.
     
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  17. darkskies

    darkskies Active Member

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    Yes exactly. I try my best to look at it objectively.
     
  18. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    I think one can build a conscience by deduction, but having empathy would help immensely.
     
  19. stvdv

    stvdv Veteran Member

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    All people have empathy in some way.

    Some have more empathy towards others, and some have more empathy for 'themselves', and less towards others

    The more empathy I feel, the more conscious I become of 'my' conscience

    You can't love others if you can't love yourself
     
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  20. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Veteran Member

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    That's true. I can empathize with anyone who is suffering even if I have not had the same experiences as they are having.
    No, there is more to having a conscience than just guilt. Having a conscience is knowing and doing what we believe is right and good. Guilt is just one result of having a guilty conscience, when we do not do what is right and good.
     
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