Posts Tagged ‘Biology is Destiny’

Empathy, Intuition, and the Abortion or Life Decision

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

St. Edith Stein’s (1891-1942) 1916 dissertation, Zum Problem der Einfühlung, On the Problem of Empathy, written after she spent much of 1915 as a wartime Red Cross nurse, qualified her as only the second German woman to earn a doctorate in philosophy. Stein’s dissertation is said to be one among “Ten Neglected Philosophical Classics” in a forthcoming chapter by Kris McDaniel in an Oxford University Press volume edited by Eric Schliesser.

Although commonly associated with therapeutic communication, “empathy” is a recently made-up word, introduced into German as “Einfühlung,” or “in-feeling” by Johann Gottfried von Herder in aesthetics in 1774, in the late 1800s into German medicine and psychiatry by Theodor Lipps, and into English by American psychologist Edward Bradford Titchener as “empathy” just prior to WWI.

The English word “empathy” is so new that we can actually date its first recorded public use by then Cornell U. Professor Titchener to a presentation he gave at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign circa 1908-1909 (Titchener, E. B. (1909). Introspection and empathy. Lectures on the experimental psychology of the thought-processes. New York, The MacMillan Company).

In her 1916 analysis, Stein sorted through several of our common psychological conceptions of empathy that have since come down to us through the sciences and popular culture, and narrowed in on those aspects of empathy that would be philosophical useful, using the phenomenological method she learned from her teacher Edmund Husserl, to address the question of how one mind knows another. This problem was essential for understanding how human persons are “constituted,” a philosophical term roughly meaning composed to the extent that they can be known:

“‘Constitution’ is a term that Stein inherits from Husserl, who uses it systematically to mean the way things appear as one (for me, for us).” Lebech, M. (2015). “Lebech, M. (2015). The philosophy of Edith Stein : from phenomenology to metaphysics. Oxford, Peter Lang. Pg. xi”

Stein focused in her reduction to a knowledge of another that is close to intuition:

“Empathy is a kind of act of perceiving [eine Art erfahrender Akte] sui generis. . . . Empathy, as we have examined and sought to describe, is the experience of foreign consciousness in general, irrespective of the kind of the experiencing subject or of the subject whose consciouness is experienced.” Stein, E. (1989). On the problem of empathy. Washington DC, ICS Publications, Pg. 11

“Two-sidedness to the essence of empathic acts – the experience of our own announcing another one.” Ibid., Pg. 19

R.W. Meneses and M. Larkin (2012) summarized Stein’s approach to empathy to three levels, the first level of which is pertinent to this discussion:

“In short, the first level, direct perception, is about the direct, non-mediated (e.g. by expressive behaviour or aprioristic knowledge) co-givenness of another person’s present embodied, embedded, minded experience.
Here, one immediately ‘sees’ the foreign experience.” Meneses, R. W. and M. Larkin (2012). “Edith Stein and the Contemporary Psychological Study of Empathy.” Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 43(2): 151-184. Pg. 175.

In an earlier page, Meneses and Larkin focused on the intuitive aspect of Stein’s early stage of empathy:

“Here, for the first time, that which was directly intuitively given about the other’s experience (during direct perception and/or experiential projection) is represented, in awareness, as a mental object. That is, the content of the intuition is mentalized, becoming, in awareness, an intellectual idea about the foreign experience. This is most transparent when Stein states that, at this level, empathy can be seen as an intuitive idea about another’s experience. Before this level, empathy is not an idea, or a representation, but intuition only (p. 20).” Meneses and Larkin (2012, pg. 173).

Intuiting the existence of another person may be the first step in the constitution of a person. The philosophical problem of the constitution of the human person thus can be directly related to the morality of the abortion decision: Is the fetus or baby a human being or human person? How do we know this?

The earliest stage of “Steinian” empathy, involving intuition, leads us to a new perspective on the abortion decision: When does the parent first intuit–prior to physically sensing or intellectually knowing–the existence of another, of a child growing in the womb? This is a different question from enumerating the stages of growth of the baby within the womb.

While the mind of a fetus or baby in the womb cannot be readily empathically experienced by another, his or her existence can be empathically intuited, a first step in the constitution of the newly-developing human being.

This initial intuition of the life of another may therefore ground the abortion decision: if one intuits the existence of another within the mother, this one who values human life will immediately take precautions to preserve this human life.

An important first question in the abortion-or-life decision thus becomes: When did I first intuit the child’s existence?

As I have written earlier, the abortion and euthanasia decisions are those in which doubt about the existence of life now lead not to caution, but to deadly force. But in almost every other human endeavor, even modern warfare, doubt about the danger to life leads to prudent caution for life-preservation instead.

Abortion ideology, in order to radically refute Freud’s dictum that “Biology is destiny,” chooses immediate deadly force instead of prudent, non-violent problem-solving and compassionate continuing commitment.

For more on St. Edith Stein’s concept of empathy and the constitution of self, please see this lecture by Oxford scholar Nikolas Prassas —

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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Refuting Abortion Ideology’s Core Idea

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Those who oppose abortion on grounds that are –

1) moral (abortion as the unjustified killing, ergo, murder of the innocent and defenseless) and

2) demographic (abortion in worldwide practice disproportionately eliminates females through sex selection, thus causing population imbalance leading to male immaturity/lack of commitment and thereby to pornography addiction, rape, human trafficking, and sex slavery, causing therefore even more oppression of women)

– sometimes omit going to the philosophical heart of the matter by refuting abortion ideology’s Core Idea: that abortion is the ultimate answer to Freud’s famous dictum that “Biology is Destiny.”

The Core Idea of Abortion Ideology can also be restated: In order for a woman to be truly free of biological destiny, that is, her role as a mother, the baby must die as subject to the woman’s will to power. Woman’s right to choose becomes woman’s right to kill, a moral equivalent of a war of independence for woman. Killing the baby, in the minds of the abortion ideologists, as ugly as it is, definitively counters the destiny of biology.

The Core Idea that “Biology is Not Destiny” unites Abortion Ideology and Gender Ideology, and will lead ineluctably to what I have called the “Reduction of Motherhood.”

Abortion Ideology represents only yet another instance in history that the oppressed kill not their oppressor, but another totally dependent on the oppressed, yet redefine this killing of the dependent one as an act of freedom, despite all the while not altering their own predicament of oppression. Abortion Ideology, like all ideologies, is thus subject to Gödel’s proof of eventual logical self-contradiction.

Freedom is not gained by destroying someone dependent on you, no matter how one may dress up the killing – unless you define freedom as being alone with your oppressor, keeping in mind that sometimes, your oppressor becomes yourself – the very definition of Hell.

The definitive answer to Abortion Ideology, and thereby Gender Ideology, flows from the continual rediscovery of motherhood, and of fatherhood in relation to motherhood. As a practical matter, unless human reproduction is moved to Brave New World laboratories exclusively, women and men will continue to discover the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood through their loving relationships.

This loving force cannot be stopped, except by a police state beyond any known to human civilization that would be needed to limit reproduction to laboratories. It is not likely that gender ideology will choose or succeed in establishing such a police state, although such a police state would be their own “Ultimate Solution” against natural motherhood. Gender ideology will therefore attempt to place laboratory reproduction on the same legal, moral, and social par with natural reproduction, and continue to reduce the status of natural motherhood, as I wrote earlier, to the status of the hoarding of pets.

The alternative to such a grim future is the transformation of human society into a loving community, in which no woman is forced to be a mother, but motherhood and its great goods are freely chosen, without resorting to abortion. This transformation can grow – one loving couple, one man and one woman – at a time.

Gender Ideology will therefore ultimately fail, because it lacks the means to destroy embodied reproducing gender itself. Gender Ideology is the societal metastasis of higher education political correctness, an unsustainable canon of self-contradiction: therapy to change gender attraction is very wrong but sex-reassignment surgery is very right. Gender theory is the antithesis of embodied gender in fact.

Embodied gender complementarity of females and males continually reinvigorates the human race, and continually reinvents loving intimacy. It just takes one fertile woman and one fertile man to restart human society and culture, despite all the efforts of Abortion and Gender Ideologues bent on dystopian sterility and eugenic fantasy, the latter being the centuries’ old panacea of the super-rich.

Abortion remains, and should always be seen as, a tragic act of desperation and weakness: powerless to eliminate her oppressor or to free herself from a terrible constraint, a mother kills her child. A whole culture of art, literature, religion, statecraft and philosophical special pleading has grown up trying to decorate and sanctify this tragic act, but the fact remains, abortion is the tragic killing of the innocent and defenseless. Abortion ideologues sometimes attempt to reduce abortion to a banal act, like blowing one’s nose, but few take such exaggeration seriously. Abortion is a killing.

The “Commonweal Catholic” has never forgiven St. John Paul II for coining the phrase “the Culture of Death.” Despite the hostility of Abortion Ideology to Catholicism, there are some Catholics who still would like to embrace the culture Abortion Ideology produces rather than step away from it.

For the sake of those wishing to embrace the culture, I offer another tack: One can choose the destiny of Creation, instead of simply negating the destiny of biology. When motherhood and fatherhood are gifts freely accepted, the need for Abortion Ideology recedes.

Many Catholic thinkers smugly dismiss the thought of St. Edith Stein without doing a fraction of the work necessary to probe its challenging difficulty. They do so at their peril, because her thought has the capacity to make their thought irrelevant. The essays of St. Edith Stein on woman, like the Theology of the Body of St. John Paul II, not only undermine Abortion and Gender Ideology, but show another – much more happy – way of living and loving.

© Copyright 2016, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

The views posted at sanityandsocialjustice.net are those of Albert J. Schorsch, III, alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.

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