The November 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month is In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All.

Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Use this forum to discuss the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris
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Sushan
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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JackDaydream wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:17 pm
Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:05 pm
JackDaydream wrote: October 9th, 2022, 2:50 pm
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
The default position may be one of immediate concerns whereas tuning into others' hardships requires a different approach or perspective. It may involve some kind of jolt or wake up call. The story of the Buddha speaks of his various experiences which involved awareness of suffering. The realisation of suffering may involve some experience of suffering, or, at least, a sense of gratitude or appreciation of the value of one's own fortunes. In some ways, turning away from the suffering of others may seem to be absurd. However, there may be some basic defence mechanisms which allow this, as a kind of numbing process. In Western civilisation, others' experience of hardship and suffering may be viewed from the lens of sensation. This may enable a distancing in which horrors are perceived as 'out there' and distant.

The remote stories of others may blur into a haze, as part of fabricated 'entertainment' and it may involve a wake-up, or shake-up before others' sufferings are taken on board as aspects of reality to be considered on an empathetic level of understanding and a perspective of compassion. It is likely that those who are most likely to be able to make this connection are those who have had a more intimate experience of personal suffering.
I agree. People that have suffered know the pain better. So it should be natural for them to feel compassionate about others' hardships. But the mysterious thing is even such people can merely turn away from those who suffer. Why?

In Lord Buddha's scenario, the prince was never exposed to any painful experiences. And he was shown no one who was suffering. So, literally, he knew nothing about pain, ailments, and suffering. The moment he saw an old guy, a patient, and a dead body (as per the buddhist literature) he began to think philosophically about suffering. I think this too suggests our innate nature of empathy, which sometimes need some waking up.
I am inclined to think that understanding of hardship is important although at times if feels as if philosophy is becoming more and more shallow. However, despite this tendency, it may be that those who seek philosophy in a deeper way come to it from a deeper level, especially in terms of making sense of suffering. Hopefully, even if philosophy dwindles to the shallow shadows of the superficial, on some level, it may prevail as a means of making sense of difficulties in life, even though philosophy may stand more as a discipline of looking at ideas critically. I wonder about the possibilities of philosophy as means of critical analysis but, also, as a way of making sense of the harshest experiences of human suffering.
It is better when a person can look at difficulties with a rational mind (it can be either philosophically or scientifically). People tend to get depressed and give up when they look at the difficulties with emotions (through heart rather than brain). But if this rational thinking can go too far and the thinker can loose his/her empathy, then it may not be quite good for the rest of the society.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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LuckyR wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:20 pm
Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:07 pm
LuckyR wrote: October 10th, 2022, 2:30 am
Sushan wrote: October 9th, 2022, 7:59 am This topic is about the October 2022 Philosophy Book of the Month, Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall, Hicksite Quaker, Iowa/National Suffragette And Her Speeches by John N. (Jake) Ferris



Mary Jane Whiteley Coggeshall became a National Suffragette because she too was denied of the right to vote. Many of the abolitionists were previously slaves themselves. (It is true that some of the privileged people too fought for the rights of the underprivileged, and they were appreciated in the history books as they swam against the tide)

Being the most intelligent animal on the earth, why cannot many of us understand the hardships of others' without actually facing them? How have we become so barbaric to be able to deny fellow humans their basic rights (and to justify such things and to rise against when any attempt is made to give them what they are deprived of)?
It is basic human psychology to view the world as being comprised (at the most basic level) of "us" and "them". Naturally we favor the members of us and disfavor the members of them. What differs (between individuals, societies and eras) is who are included in each group.

At one time it was more family vs not, then tribe vs not, now racial group, sexual orientation group, immigration status position and political party are dividing lines. Gender was once a popular dividing line.

I once verbalized that the event that would end racism would be if aliens landed on Earth. Then humans would be "us" and the aliens would be "them".
We always have biases towards various things. We apply it to fellow human beings as well. But I think it is different than 'us' vs 'them' when it comes to see someone who is suffering. We empathize more towards an innocent fellow who got killed accidentally by a mafia than a man who commited suicide after loosing all his money for gambling. Both have died. But we tend to rationalize the scenarios before feeling empathy (or sympathy).
I disagree. It is psychologically easier on the ego to suppose that the victim of random crime through no fault of their own is closer to ourselves (us) vs someone who is suffering because of self abusive life choices (not like us, since we are superior in our own eyes).
We may be superior in our own eyes. But we all have a conscience. So let's presume that you and me are good people in general. Then the innocent one is more close to us and we may feel more empathy towards him (or her). But if the scenario is met with a thief, whose conscience is aware of his (or her) faults, will he/she empathize more towards the bad guy who is being hurt because that guy is more close to him/her?
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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Good_Egg wrote: October 22nd, 2022, 7:43 pm
LuckyR wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:20 pm It is psychologically easier on the ego to suppose that the victim of random crime through no fault of their own is closer to ourselves (us) vs someone who is suffering because of self abusive life choices (not like us, since we are superior in our own eyes).
Seems like this is on the right track.

If bad things happen to Alfie and not to Bruno,, that calls out for explanation.

If the explanation is sheer bad luck that could happen to anyone, Bruno is likely to be more sympathetic than if the explanation is that Alfie made bad choices.

But sometimes the explanation is that it's just the sort of person Alfie is. Neither bad choices nor something that could happen to anyone. In which case sympathy is again likely to be limited. It does seem like the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong - life"s like that.
I think we unconsciously rationalize scenarios before being emotional over them. That is why we feel different levels of empathy towards different people and different situations. We feel sorry for anyone's death. But if we get to know that the deceased was a previous killer and has been killed in a war between two gangstar parties, we feel less sorry for him/her.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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I believe it is a judgment that makes it hard or people to understand other people's hardships. For example, we all see the end result of what someone's choices are. If it is a negative outcome, most people will say "I would have chosen," or "You should have done." What most people don't see is the prior series of events that led to the choices a person made. There is also the issue of looking from the outside and not mentally handling the hardship. It didn't happen to us so do we really know how it feels?
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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Sushan wrote: October 24th, 2022, 8:09 am
LuckyR wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:20 pm
Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:07 pm
LuckyR wrote: October 10th, 2022, 2:30 am

It is basic human psychology to view the world as being comprised (at the most basic level) of "us" and "them". Naturally we favor the members of us and disfavor the members of them. What differs (between individuals, societies and eras) is who are included in each group.

At one time it was more family vs not, then tribe vs not, now racial group, sexual orientation group, immigration status position and political party are dividing lines. Gender was once a popular dividing line.

I once verbalized that the event that would end racism would be if aliens landed on Earth. Then humans would be "us" and the aliens would be "them".
We always have biases towards various things. We apply it to fellow human beings as well. But I think it is different than 'us' vs 'them' when it comes to see someone who is suffering. We empathize more towards an innocent fellow who got killed accidentally by a mafia than a man who commited suicide after loosing all his money for gambling. Both have died. But we tend to rationalize the scenarios before feeling empathy (or sympathy).
I disagree. It is psychologically easier on the ego to suppose that the victim of random crime through no fault of their own is closer to ourselves (us) vs someone who is suffering because of self abusive life choices (not like us, since we are superior in our own eyes).
We may be superior in our own eyes. But we all have a conscience. So let's presume that you and me are good people in general. Then the innocent one is more close to us and we may feel more empathy towards him (or her). But if the scenario is met with a thief, whose conscience is aware of his (or her) faults, will he/she empathize more towards the bad guy who is being hurt because that guy is more close to him/her?
Excellent question. As a non thief, this is a rare situation where I have no data and no experience.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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Mounce574 wrote: November 3rd, 2022, 5:36 pm I believe it is a judgment that makes it hard or people to understand other people's hardships. For example, we all see the end result of what someone's choices are. If it is a negative outcome, most people will say "I would have chosen," or "You should have done." What most people don't see is the prior series of events that led to the choices a person made.
Yes, context is all! 👍🙂
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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I read a series of discussion interestingly but I cannot but feel like something a little bit incompatible with people thought to undergo a western style education and life style, to be honest. Yes, as you guess, I am a easterner and a person somewhat faithful to Buddhism. In view of persons like me, what you argue is a deductive logic to solve why one cannot love others as own-self. In the meanwhile, we are trying to reach a state of mind which does not distinguish a person who loves and a person who is loved, namely no difference between a subject and an object. A famous Japanese philosopher named Kitaro Nishida named this kind of mind status as absolute nothingness. Under such mind status, there is also no difference among all things in the entire world including non-organic things after all. This status is like one Dr. Alfred Adler called the sense of common organization. Everything is the same, so everyone shares an empathy each other, as a result.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by Mounce574 »

LuckyR wrote: November 4th, 2022, 3:15 am
Sushan wrote: October 24th, 2022, 8:09 am
LuckyR wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:20 pm
Sushan wrote: October 19th, 2022, 6:07 pm

We always have biases towards various things. We apply it to fellow human beings as well. But I think it is different than 'us' vs 'them' when it comes to see someone who is suffering. We empathize more towards an innocent fellow who got killed accidentally by a mafia than a man who commited suicide after loosing all his money for gambling. Both have died. But we tend to rationalize the scenarios before feeling empathy (or sympathy).
I disagree. It is psychologically easier on the ego to suppose that the victim of random crime through no fault of their own is closer to ourselves (us) vs someone who is suffering because of self abusive life choices (not like us, since we are superior in our own eyes).
We may be superior in our own eyes. But we all have a conscience. So let's presume that you and me are good people in general. Then the innocent one is more close to us and we may feel more empathy towards him (or her). But if the scenario is met with a thief, whose conscience is aware of his (or her) faults, will he/she empathize more towards the bad guy who is being hurt because that guy is more close to him/her?
Excellent question. As a non thief, this is a rare situation where I have no data and no experience.
This brings into question whether a person can be reformed or not. If somebody did something wrong and they serve whatever it takes to pay back what they did, and they truly feel remorse for their actions then should we call them a thief even if they never commit another crime again?
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

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Mounce574 wrote: November 23rd, 2022, 4:29 pm If somebody did something wrong and they serve whatever it takes to pay back what they did, and they truly feel remorse for their actions then should we call them a thief even if they never commit another crime again?
I think we should not, so as to recognise that (a) they have paid the assigned penalty for their wrongdoing, and (b) we recognise their genuine remorse too. Surely we should encourage those who have seen the error of their former ways to continue as we want them to? And we could do this, in this specific example, by not referring to them as a thief.
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Re: Why is it hard for people to understand others' hardships?

Post by EricPH »

Sushan wrote: October 23rd, 2022, 7:22 am It is better when a person can look at difficulties with a rational mind (it can be either philosophically or scientifically).
When people think with a rational mind, it is easy to think we have earned what we have, why should we give it to someone else? Helping others is sacrificial, we have to give our time or resources to someone else.

Scholars have highlighted over two thousand passages in the Bible that relate to helping the poor, the oppressed, widows and orphans.
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