Posts Tagged ‘Sigmund Freud’

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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Illusions of the Family: the Street Gang and the Marauding Clan

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Contrary to popular cultural debates, the greatest threat to the traditional family is not the child-raising same-sex household, which forms an infinitesimal, teeny, tiny sliver of a 1% segment of USA and world households, but the street gang, which claims tens of thousands of members in each major developed city.

There are more gang members in some individual major US urban regions than there are same-sex parents in the entire USA.

The claim that a street gang is a family is what I call The Gang Illusion.

In free societies, the Gang Illusion is arguably the greatest everyday danger to not only “The Family” as a concept or institution, but to the health, safety, and welfare of the greatest number of individuals and actual families.

The Big Lie of the Gang Illusion is that the gang is a family. This lie is fundamental to the coherence of the gang, which in other respects usually progresses from origins in mutual defense to a drug-selling, extortion, war-making, and/or vice enterprise.

Mutual aid, mutual defense, lifetime commitment, loyalty, intimate knowledge, and kinship are cited by gangs to appeal to similarity with a family. These appeals are especially persuasive to those whose real families are broken, or who have no family, or who are intimidated by fear of the gang into joining it.

Those who have no loving home are falsely drawn by the promised support of the “homies,” but many who do have loving homes also migrate to gangs for reasons including fear, identity, personal loyalty, adrenaline thrills, and ambition.

Having a father and a mother does not in itself guarantee a religious, Christian, or Catholic family, nor does simple adherence to religious ritual. The mythical Corleone family of The Godfather fame also had a paterfamilias and a materfamilias to an extended family. The Sacraments of the Catholic Church were ruthlessly appropriated into the Corleone gang rubric in a particularly blasphemous way, depicted in the famous scene where the baby was baptized with continual cutaways to assassination.

The mythical Corleones and the real gang-bangers of today, while perhaps meeting the Wikipedia definition of “consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence” do not represent true families as understood
by Catholic teaching
.

Nor should street gangs be represented as families under the law. But as long as developed societies continue to expand in law the definition of family beyond the natural law definition that begins with man-woman-child as the family’s foundation, not only will polygamous relationships gain family status, but also will street gang and other clan-like social structures gain, if not increased legal status, greatly increased social power.

By driving natural man-woman-child families from the legal marketplace, we will merely further empower the unregulated off-market violent gang and marauding clan. (I include the marauding clan in this analysis to link the analysis to developing societies).

Displacing the natural man-woman-child family is not effective, enduring, or stable social change, but merely another extension of the temporary Gresham’s Law phenomenon into the social structure, with violent gangs and clans filling the void.

Avant-garde legalists never cease to follow the 18th century French thinker Rousseau:

“He who dares to undertake the making of people’s laws ought to feel himself capable of changing human nature.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, NY, Dutton, 1973, pg. 194

Such hubris in reshaping and expanding the definition of the family by law will have an inevitable effect, not in the multiplication of same-sex parenting households, which are limited by the relatively small number of same-sex couples in society, but in the strengthening of violent clan-like structures like the street gang, which can grow exponentially as other more fundamental social structures decline.

The weakening of the natural man-woman-child family is a social problem primarily because it strengthens the street gang. We already have ample social evidence of this, and have not yet learned the lesson.

Perhaps we have been so entertained and distracted by false apocalypses on television and film, zombie and otherwise, that we do not see the true extent of human suffering caused by the violent gang or marauding clan which is ever around us.

The Rousseau-inspired social and legal engineers will continue to tinker away and redefine the family as they might. These elite social and legal engineers will never admit to their mistake, and will instead characteristically call for more and more radical measures along the same line, since for them “It is all about” their god-like powers to shape others. They will think that gangs grow solely because of lack of jobs and housing policy mishaps, and not family-saving policy disasters.

As this elite grows more and more radical, their numbers will shrink out of sheer public common sense, embarrassment, and other more pressing interests. This process may take the greater part of a century.

But in a sense, the actions of these elite social and legal engineers are irrelevant to the actual present human predicament: For millions worldwide, whether in the Americas, in Asia, in Europe, or in Africa, the family has been redefined as a some form of violent street gang or marauding clan.

In the end, as it was in the beginning, it will be up to pious non-violent religious believers to rebuild the natural man-woman-child family. To do this they will have to leap away from the tangle of every rejected revolutionary ideal since Rousseau and his forebears that has stumbled to its feet in a moaning, static chorus from across the Internet.

(Ideas do matter. And the Internet has exploded the ideas of past centuries across present humanity like clustered shrapnel.)

Those who attempt to change human nature, in this case the natural man-woman-child family, will in the end only unveil another manifestation of human nature, the violent and marauding gang or clan.

Those who wish to subdue the non-violent natural family will continue to unleash the Wolf in humanity, the homo homini lupus. So history is about to repeat itself again: Elite social and legal engineers are about to make Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents once again relevant. I’m just about to dust my copy off.

While our governments shift massive political capital to redefine the family, they generally ignore the street gang and the marauding clan which are problems world-wide for portions of the population much, much larger than the infinitesimal, teeny, tiny sliver of 1% of the population for which they are willing to expend political capital.

Perhaps our governments have realized that the much larger problem of street gangs and marauding clans are beyond their reach, and they must politically survive by pleasing coalitions of tinier and tinier constituencies.

So I suggest that natural man-woman-child families and their friends turn off the fake apocalypse shows and movies and watch the real violence on the news, and reflect on the origins of this violence.

Then, with some of the extra time gained, begin reading Blessed John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio.

I return again to Matthew 19:4-6:

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

The Divinely-blessed human union above, the natural man-woman-child family, is the foundation of a non-violent and complementary human society. To the extent that we try to re-invent and replace this family in law and society, we will only in the end further propagate the violent gang and the marauding clan.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

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