Friday, July 20, 2012

Rethinking compassion

A few notes from today include the material covered by Stephanie Brown including her selective investment theory which proposes that "social bonds represent a motivational system for helping us give away what we need to help others." She explained that this mechanism can also describe compassion and the ways that we may augment that compassion, specifically looking to inhibit activation in the nucleus accumbens. However, I would argue that parental investment in another is more akin to sacrifice then to compassion that we may extend towards others, especially strangers. On another note, David Desteno spoke of emotion and social behavior, specifically looking at short-term versus long-term intertemporal choices. His research is most significant to my current line of thinking in that he is also looking at ways to cultivate compassion utilizing social media and subtle similarities between people that may invoke more compassionate responses. The questions that I have for David include whether or not these would necessarily invoke long-term changes in compassion behavior within the neural architecture of the human being or whether or not it would be important to look at training that involves more baseline similarities between human beings. For example, in Buddhist literature when looking at similarities between different human beings the baseline is whether or not that other person suffers which they inevitably do and that acts to create a sense of connection or sense of common humanity between those two entities. This might lead to some sort of similarity training or similarity remembrance that could activate neural mechanisms to create long-term compassion in the person. I think necessitating activism, also, acts to create a barrier to compassionate thought. This follows in line with the more traditional Buddhist literature and that the definition of compassion in that case only includes the ultimate step of thinking or wishing that someone is alleviated from suffering. If someone believes that it is necessary to engage in a compassionate action in order to engage in compassion itself then if that person does not know what to do to help the other person suffering or they can't do anything to help that person suffering physically then this might also represent one reason why this is a barrier to compassion.

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