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Culture of Empathy Builder: George Lakoff
http://j.mp/MsaHVz

 

 George Lakoff and Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

George Lakoff is a cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is academically most famous for his 'ideas about the centrality of metaphor to human thinking, political behavior and society.' He says empathy is a foundation of morality and of progressive values.

George is the author of many academic and politically related books.  His latest book is The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic. 'A compact handbook on partisan political discourse, with a blueprint for how liberals can switch from playing defense against conservatives to launching a stronger offense.' Basing the discourse on the foundational value of empathy. America was founded on a moral system and that system starts with empathy.
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George Lakoff & Edwin Rutsch: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

 

 
(Thanks to Mike Epstein for doing the transcription.)

Hi, itís Edwin Rutsch, and these are dialogues on how to build a culture of empathy, and today Iím here with George Lakoff.  Thank you for joining me, George. 

GEORGE LAKOFF:  A pleasure to be here Edwin.  Always a pleasure.

EDWIN RUTSCH:  Great, and let me just give a little introduction.  So youíre a cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and also Wikipedia says youíre most famous for your ideas on the centrality of metaphor to human thinking, political behavior and society. 

And youíre an author of quite a few books.  They seem to break down in two different categories.  One is academic books, and a couple of them are called Philosophy in the Flesh and Metaphors We Live By.  And then youíve got a whole series of books that are political books, and there are books like A Political Mind, Whose Freedom? Moral Politics, and Donít Think Of An Elephant.  I happen to have a couple of them right here.  Some pretty thick, and some thinner. 

And the latest, Iím coming to that.  So the latest is a little blue book The Central Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic.  Is there more by way of introduction about your background and academic and political interests?

GEORGE:    Sure.  Let me first hold up a book.   Thereís the little blue book.  Now, what Iím doing now is working on the way that the physical brain does thought and language.  How do you get thought and language out of neurons? 

And Iíve been working with a group at the International Computer Sciences Institute for the last 25 years on neuro computation and cognitive linguistics putting it together with work on neuroscience and on experimental psychology.  That has borne incredible fruit.  Weíve learned a lot about how the brain does thought and language and especially metaphor.  And that is going to be written up this summer.  So Iím working on a book with ______ OíRyan, who heads the AI group over at ICSI.

The other part of this has to do with metaphor.  Back in 1978 I made a discovery jointly with one other person who did it independently.  And what we found was that metaphor is not a matter of language, but of thought.  We think metaphor but Ö  And since then weíve worked at the details of that.  There are certain metaphors that arise before you learn language Ė just by being in the world. 

And we have a neuro theory of how that works, so that just having a brain thatís connected to the body allows that, and that explains what ďembodied cognitionĒ, that  is that your ideas are not abstract, that they are tied to your body, to how you move in the world and how you perceive and understand in general how your emotions are.  All of those things are structuring the system of concepts that you use to think with.

And many of those are metaphorical.  And the metaphors are the most complicated kinds because they use other modes of thought.  So you break down the types of thought that there are.  Metaphors use them all, and thatís not   obvious, but thatís what weíve been showing.

So by studying metaphor we are able to study the most complex thought and answer the question ďhow is it possible for the physical brain Ė 100 billion neurons and a quadrillion connections Ė how is that possible, how does that give you thought and language.

And we have an initial answer to that.  So thatís cool.  Thatís what I get to do otherwise.

And the other applications that relate to politics, one is to literature, obviously, but also to philosophy.  It turns out each philosopher has a set of metaphors they take literally.  And then they carry their reasoning out perfectly.  And that is in the book called Philosophy In The Flesh

And then there is a book called Where Mathematics Comes From where Rafael Nunez and I work out the foundations of mathematical understanding.  So to understand mathematics, and any mathematician understands, it turns out that embodied cognition, together with metaphor, allows you to understand higher mathematics, understand forms of infinity, exponentials Ė things like that.  And imaginary numbers, infinite numbers, and so on. 

It turned out to be metaphorical, only precisely mathematically specify those metaphors.  So thatís done in a book called Where Mathematics Comes From.  Thatís what I do in my day job. 

EDWIN:  Thatís really such fascinating work.  So youíre really like studying the physical workings of the brain and the neurons and how it relates to all these different fields and to language and to linguistics.  So that kind of brings us to your book, The Little Blue Book

What we want to talk a bout here is how can we go about building a culture of empathy, and your book seems to be related to that topic.

GEORGE:    Oh, itís essentially related to that topic.  When I work on moral politics and was looking for the foundation of conservative and liberal thought, I didnít understand conservatism at all.  And so I said why is it that conservatives have the collection of ideas that they have.  Why are they against abortion but for a flat tax or against taxation.  What does taxation have to do with abortion.  Why are they against environmental regulation.  What does that have to do with abortion.  Why are they for tort reform or for owning guns.  What does owning guns have to do with tort reform.

And then I realized that I had the opposite views, and I set out to try to understand this by studying my field, linguistics.  You know I study political science and how people think.  And what I discovered is that there are two moral systems behind this based on two notions of the family.

We have the metaphor of the family.  And that metaphor takes strict father families and nurturing parent families and wraps them onto conservative ideology and progressive ideology.  And those ideologies apply to different domains.  To the market, to religion, to foreign policy, to all sorts of things.

And that turns out to explain the differences.  And then when we got into the neuroscience of this, it turns out, of coursed, that a great many people, probably most people, have both systems, and are partly conservative and partly progressive.  Conservative in some areas and progressive in others.  And thereís an explanation for this in the brain.  Which is that when you have two neural circuits Ė one for conservative ethics and one for progressive ethics.  And they contradict each other.

They way that works is by a mechanism called mutual inhibition, the activation of one inhibits the other.  And then the more one is used, the stronger it gets and the weaker the other gets.  And conservatives have been taking advantage of that.

Now what does empathy have to do with all of this?  Everything.  Because America was founded on a moral system, and that moral system starts with empathy.  It says citizens care about each other Ė they have empathy for each other, and they act on that.  They donít just sit around being empathetic. They act by forming with themselves and others a government that creates a concept of the public.

What the public is Ė the public provides provisions for everybody.  Obviously schools, you know, public health measures, food safety measures, clean air, clean water, sewers.  But also things like electrical systems, power grids, for example, rural electrification.  Or transportation systems, systems in which you have air traffic controller systems, things of that sort.  The Federal Communications Commission sets up communication systems.

These are systems that we all need.  And it turns out that every private enterprise uses the public and depends on it.  And e very private person having a decent private life depends upon the public.  

So imagine what your life would be like if none of that existed?  It would sort of be like living in Somalia or you know, some other place where you donít have necessarily roads that are maintained and built.  And you donít necessarily have electric grids and all of these things. 

This is absolutely necessary, and it starts with empathy. 

EDWIN:  Okay, youíre saying that empathy is this kind of foundational value that progressive values  are based on.  So how are you defining empathy?  What is your kind of working definition of what empathy is?

GEORGE:    Well, empathy arises physically.  Empathy is a physical phenomenon.  And thatís whatís interesting about neuroscience.  This was discovered in Italy, back in the early 1990ís, by Professor Rizzilattiís group there.  And Iíve worked with the group, and Iíve worked with Vitorrio Balezi, who is one of the discoverers.  And what we did Ė Vitorrio came to Berkeley for a couple of months, and we took the primary data that they had on this.  What they discovered was this Ė they were worked with macaw monkeys.  They had trained the monkeys to do certain tasks, like pressing buttons or peeling bananas, or crunching peanuts and eating the peanuts, and so on. 

And they had probes in the monkeysí brains that went down into whatís called the pre-motor cortex.  Itís the part of the brain that choreographs complex actions.  And what they were able to do was to show what parts of the brain were active when the monkey did each of these things.

That worked fine.  And then one day they were working on this, somebody took a lunch break, went out, came back, saw a pile of bananas, started peeling a banana, and all of a sudden, one of these brains started acting Ė the computer that was tied to its third brain, and what they found out, was that when the experimenter peeled the banana, the banana peeling
 (12:10) in the monkeyís brain. 

So what that suggested, and what they later confirmed was that the same neurons that were involved in acting were involved in perceiving this same action.  This has to do with moving your face and muscles in your body, because your emotional system is tied to your body.  There is a physiology of motion that has been studied since the 1950ís.  Paul Ekwin did the original work, and now itís extended.

We know what the body does when you're feeling certain emotions.  We know where the brain is active when youíre feeling those emotions, and so on.  And it turns out that you can tell basically, mostly, what other emotions people are feeling.  Are they  happy, said, or depressed?  Are they feeling pain, etc.

You can tell my looking at someone if there is some extreme emotion they have.   And thatís a very important thing.

You can also tell if theyíre in the middle of some motor program, i.e., suppose they go pick up a glass of water as if to take a drink, you expect them to take a drink, because thatís what your motor program would do. 

So, the idea of empathy is this:  that you have a physical ability to connect with other people, to see what they are doing with their body as if it were your body.  And then to see what their muscles are doing, and your brain automatically connects those to the emotional regions to give you a sense of what their emotions are, as if they are your emotions. 

Now there are also parts of the brain that distinguish between yours and theirs. 

EDWIN:  Youíre talking about the inhibition, that you can know that your actions Ė thereís a separation between your action and others.

GEORGE:  The reason for that is when the motor neurons are firing, they fire somewhat les when you see someone else than when you are doing it, although they are firing when you see someone else.  And actually, itís more complicated than that.  Only 30% of them work exactly this way, and the other 70% do much more complicated interesting things that Galazi and I have studied, figured out, and written up.

Now, thereís also a set of neuron near there called the c0notical neurons.  And theyíre called conotical because they work on what are called ďconotical actionsĒ.  For example, if you peel a  banana, that is the normal thing that you do with a banana.  You donít normally stick a banana in your ear or step on it, or put it on your nose, or whatever.

So this fire, when you eat or see a banana, or you does a conotical action on a banana.  Okay.  And itís not just bananas Ė itís anything else.  So it is a set of neurons for connecting you to the world in terms of the normal things you do when you experience in the world.

And you can see that we evolved to have this.  We evolved to interact with the world, with the physical world in normal ways.   So we actually have parts of our brain that connect us socially or emotionally to other people and to the physical world.

And those parts of the brain can be either enhanced by being raised in the right way, or can be killed off by being raised in the wrong way.  And thatís a very important thing, that is the way you are raised and what kind of family youíre in and what your parents do have everything to do with whether youíre going to be an empathetic person and whether you are going to have a respect for objects in the world and for nature itself.

And those are very important things to know.  And that physical basis is the basis for not just progressive thought but the basis for American democracy.  The alternative to that in terms of the idea of democracy is the conservative view.  And on the conservative view, democracy is about liberty, the liberty to seek your own well-being and your own self-interest without being responsible for the well-being or self-interest of anybody else.  That is, everything is a matter of individual responsibility, not social responsibility.

EDWIN:  Can we take a step back?  In terms of mere neurons, as Iím waving my hands here, youíre seeing my hands waving, and your body, your neurons are firing as if you are waving your hands as well.  So thatís what the empathic connection is, is on how sensitive you are on picking up your acknowledgment with your head waving, a shaking.

GEORGE:  Thatís right.  Iím acknowledging by moving my head, and youíre getting that. 

EDWIN:  Yeah, and then I know, youíre getting what Iím saying.  So we have kind of this connection, a kind of a mirroring.

GEORGE:  Itís also a metaphorical connection.  The major metaphor for communication is the communication is sending ideas to someone else through some conduit, and what you are doing is tracing out that conduit with your hands.  This was discovered back in 1980 by researchers doing work on gesture, and they discovered there are metaphorical gestures.  And now there is a whole field that studies metaphorical gesture. 

EDWIN:  So then itís the actions turn into a metaphor, and then the other person can kind of pick up that metaphor, and it creates an experience for them.  Kind of a viscerally felt emotional experience.

GEORGE:  And language can do the same.  Language too can create visceral emotional experiences, which is why people read novels or go to movies or watch TV shows, or whatever.  Language or images can do that for you.  And whatís interesting is that they can create in your brain, since all of that, every idea that you have is physical in a neural circuit.   Every metaphor is physical in a neural circuit.  Every narrative, everything you understand is there in a neural circuit in your brain.

Now whatís interesting is those circuits can be activated independent of whatí external.  You can imagine things.  So thereís a great discovery that was made, first by Martha Fara at the University of Pennsylvania where it turns out that the same neural structures that are there used for seeing and moving in the world are also used for imagining.  And the same neural circuits for feeling are also used for imagining.  So that you can imagine things and put them together.  So imagine a flying pig, okay? 

Weíre ďpigasusĒ, wear the wings.  Well, you know where the wings are.  They are attached to the sides of the back, right?  And you know where is the snout, itís facing where the beak of the bird would be, etc.  What you are doing is putting together the structure of a  bird and the structure of a pig, and youíre creating a flying pig, even though pigs canít fly. 

Now, this is not the only way you can get a flying pig.  You could also have super swine, which is a cake, and as it thaws out, like that, right?  And I think the main thing is that you can imagine this.

Now it turns out dreams work the same way.  I have a study some years back of the metaphorical structure of dreams.   What I showed is the normal metaphor system is there interacting with your everyday concerns to structure your dreams.  And then the dreams have to do with the activation of those metaphors and your concerns and your emotional concerns in your everyday life.   And that gives rise to the emotional and cognitive structure of dreams and the linguistic structure of dreams, internally.

One of my students, Beth Ford Friend, did a dissertation in the divinity school in Berkeley where she looked at religious visions.  You know, St. Teresa of Avila, for example, and others.  And what she found is that they were metaphorical as well.   And that what was involved is they put together existing conceptual metaphors, that is circuits in the brain to give them an experience coming from the inside. 

And when you have that experience coming from the inside, which you attribute it to being external, as when people hear voices which are generated from the inside.  That is the brain can generate knowledge, inferences, ideas and so on, and this supplies to politics as well and to human relationships, to relationships with your loved ones, with your family, with friends, and so on.

So it turns out empathy is right at the center of all of these issues.

EDWIN:  Well thatís why Iím kind of delving into the definition of it, because Iíve looked at this for some time now, and there seems to be a lot of different use of the word empathy.  So Iím really trying to get a sense of clarity around what empathy is.  So there seems to be two parts to it, what youíre saying.

One, it seems to be based on that mirror neuron where weíre mirroring.  And the second part is kind of an imaginative, and I think the academics might call it cognitive empathy or perspective taking.  Is that the second part of how youíre seeing it?

GEORGE:  Theyíre not separate.  They have the same mechanism in the brain.  Thatís what is interesting.  Theyíre not different.  From the perspective of how the brain works, they are one phenomenon.  That is, it is perspective taking, which means you can activate the same circuits that would be involved in interacting with someone else.  And that you can imagine it, and maybe interacting with an imaginary person.  Or with your image of what God would be.  Or something like that.

So the idea is that you have empathy of all sorts, but there is one mechanism for it.  And what gives rise to the multiple definitions is our folk theory of how the brain works, or how the mind works, which is our folk theory, which is that our thoughts are abstract Ė they are separate from the body.

And that is false.  As soon as you understand how thought actually works physically, then you see that there is really one mechanism.  And from a scientific point of view, there is just one empathy.

EDWIN:  So itís like a perspective, so-called perspective taking, is really just kind of imagining someone else as using all that mirror neuron circuitry, basically, to activate all those feelings and experiences.

GEORGE:  But in doing that youíre activating that circuitry.  So youíre actuating an imaginative version of mirror neuron circuitry, where youíre imaging perceiving, youíre also imaging acting, moving your body.  And youíre also imagining the function that go along with the physiology of emotion.

EDWIN:  Okay, so if we want to build a culture of empathy, what we are wanting to do is basically to enhance that process.  And there are all different kinds of blocks, maybe, to that process of connecting, with each other.

GEORGE:  Right.  And let me tell you some of the blocks.  When you look at the strict father model of morality, which is the basis of conservative thought.  It is based on the notion of a strict father family.  Now, the basic Ė and thatís a moral system.

So the question is where does our morality come from?  From the same place, it turns out.  Our morality has to do with well-being, our well-being and the well-being of others who we can connect with.  So the very notion of morality involving our well-being which has to do with neural circuitry in our brain plus the neurotransmitters, the chemicals emitted in the brain because of the action of that circuitry and that also cause the action of the circuitry.  They are intimately connected.

That is the basis of all moral systems.  That is, when we grow up as a child, we experience well-being in certain contexts and ill-being in others.  And those contexts give rise to a metaphor called understanding of morality.

For example, you are better off if you eat pure food than if you eat rotten food.  So morality is purity, and immorality is rottenness.  Some things are rotten in the state of Denmark.  Some things are rotten things to do.  You have purification rituals around the world.

Or every one-year-old knows that it is better to stand up and walk on two legs than to have to crawl on the ground.  So morality is uprightness, and immorality is being low-down, underhanded, and, you know, being a snake in the grass, etc.  Right?

You have the idea that youíre better off if you have the things you need than if you donít.  Right?  So, that gives rise to the idea that well-being is wealth, and ill-being is poverty.  Poor John, you know.  This world for being poor is used also for having ill-being, for not having well-being.

And that gives rise to the notion of well-being as wealth and accounting gives rise to a complex metaphor of moral accounting.  If I do you a favor, you owe me one, how can I ever repay you, etc.  If you hurt me, then I can repay you in kind, or I can hurt you back, or you can make up for it, and, you know, you can recompense me, and so on. 

So moral accounting is part of that.  And a big part of it has to do with the family.  That is, you are better off generally if your parents nurture you than if they donít.  So morality is nurturance.  Youíre better off if you listen to your parents than if you donít.  So morality is obedience to legitimate authority.

That notion of morality, obedience to parents and legitimate authority, gives rise to a strict father family.  The other metaphor gives rise to a nurturing parent family.  Those metaphors arise just by living in the world.  They arise because two parts of your brain Ė one with well-being and one with some other experience Ė are activated together. 

When they are activated together, activation spreads to find the shortest pathway between them, and neuro-learning will create a metaphor which is that pathway.  So that you will learn metaphors from morality before you even learn to talk.  And then the language will follow suit. 

But you learn those so early and they are shaped in your family.  And so the question of whether you Ė and everyone will learn both of them.  And the question is which one is enhanced and which one is not enhanced.  If you are neglected or beaten from the time you are born, one thing will happen.  And if you are loved and cuddled and taken care of, another thing will happen. 

And those are really crucial in all of these circumstances.

EDWIN:  So itís like how are we fostering empathy within children from the very beginning.  Thatís kind of what you are looking at. 

What about the aspect of fear as a block?  Because it seems that fear is something Ė empathy seems to need some kind of open awareness to be able to take in others.  And fear can kind of shrink that awareness.

GEORGE:  Well, fear is, you know, one of our natural emotions, and it has to do with homeostasis that is in the body, that is maintaining safety.  So if you have fear, what that does to maintain safety is to shut down empathy with your attacker.  Now if youíre attacker is your parent, then you know, the possibilities for empathy are cut down to a large extent.  And that makes it more difficult.

So, yes.  What that does Ė fear has the mechanism of shutting down empathy with the person you fear.  And, again, itís mutual inhibition.

EDWIN:  So, thereís mutual inhibition in the sense that if we have circuitry of empathy and wanting to connect Ė and thatís kind of like a natural capacity we have Ė that we also have a circuitry for fear and protection that shuts down the empathic connection with others.

GEORGE:  Right.  Exactly.  So itís very important to overcome that fear and to cultivate that empathy.  And I canít stress how important childhood is.  By the time you are five, half of your neuro connections die.  Now that leaves you a lot.  I mean, you are born with 100 billion neurons, each neuron has between 1,000 and 10,000 connections.  So you are born with about a quadrillion connections in your brain, half of them die by the time you are five, depending on your experience, the ones that are least used die off.  So it still leaves you with a half quadrillion.  And there are lots of changes that can occur after five.

But what happens between birth and five shapes your brain.  And thatís why early experience is the most important determinant of the possibilities for empathy.   

EDWIN:  Thereís a whole movement that Iím just becoming aware of how attachment, early attachment training, the importance of mirroring the child and being present, and holding, and that physical connection, and that reflecting of the child.

GEORGE:  Thatís right.  If you go back to my book on moral politics back in 1996, there is a chapter on raising children, and a whole chapter on attachment theory.  And what attachment shows, then, has been elaborated since then, but more confirmed, that early attachment is extremely important in building empathy. 

And that this started from the study of killers.  It started in England.  They tried to figure out how killers were brought up, and they were largely brought up without empathy, you know, without attachment.  And thatís a major finding. 

So this is extremely important.  Attachment theory in raising children is a very important part of raising children.  Abuse theory, you know, what is the opposite.  How are children abused?  And children are often abused when they are punished for doing things that are wrong.  When they are physically punished, etc., as opposed to when they are positively reinforced for doing things that are right.  You can do that either way, and thatís a very important difference. 

So, these are crucial differences in childhood for building empathy.  And whatís interesting here is that the word empathy is sometimes confused Ė largely by conservatives Ė with sympathy.  Since they donít believe in empathy, then they may have less of it.  And thatís another question.  Do they have less empathy?  There are people who claim they do, and I donít know whether that is true or not in terms of the science of it.  I suspect it may be, but I donít know. 

There is a very important finding, which is that conservatives have in-group nurturance.  That is, they take care of the people in their group, but not out of their group.  And this is certainly true in the military.  In the military, you form teams, and people take care of each other on the team, but theyíre fighting against people outside of the team.  And thatís a very common situation, where you take care of people in your tribe, and you fight against people outside of your tribe, historically in terms of that.

So this, again, a complexity that you find.  Itís not that conservatives never have any empathy for anybody.  They may very well have empathy for their friends and neighbors.  They may very well have empathy for people in their group.

EDWIN:  So weíre talking about in-group and out-groups of empathy.  Itís like who do we have empathy for?  Is it for our families?  Is it for people with similar political beliefs?  Is it for people with the same religion, the same ethic group?  And so there is this whole dynamic of how we can open ourselves for empathic connection.  And maybe who we fear and see as the other. 

GEORGE:  ÖI think thatís right.  I think thatís really important to see that thatís the case, that the issue of empathic connection and what blocks it is at the center of all social life.  And political life.

EDWIN:  Iím  talking about metaphor in doing these dialogues, and youíve done about 110 of them so far.  Iím starting them off actually by asking what is your metaphor for empathy?   And itís amazing.  Everybody has a different metaphor, and there is a typical metaphor, you know, standing in someone elseísí shoes, looking through someone elseís eyes.

For me, empathy is like a cornucopia, in the sense it opens the door to a wide variety of feelings and experiences more than I would have just on my own.   So Iím wondering what is your metaphor of empathy? 

GEORGE:  Well, first dose.  Yours has to do with the effect, causal effects rather than the direct experience, and the others have to do with the direct experience of having someone elseís experience.

Now that has to do with another metaphor system, just a metaphor system for the self.  If you want to read a bout these metaphor systems, the book to look at is Philosophy of the Flesh by myself and Mark Thompson.  Itís a large easier read book, but itís large because it goes into all the stuff in very great detail.  But again, itís easy to read and fun.  And it goes through all the metaphors, from morality and for everything else, and for the self.

And the basic understanding of the self is the difference between your locus of consciousness and the rest

________36:55.  And your locus of consciousness is usually understood as separate from the rest of your body, so that one distinction is you versus your body.  Another is you versus your social morals, you know, or you versus some other person inside you.  So you can be fighting with yourself and so on. 

And those, there is a whole set of those metaphors, almost two dozen, that we have for understanding who we are.  And those metaphors are going to be used in understanding empathy metaphorically. 

So the question is, can you project your conscious experience, your consciousness, your ďsubjectĒ into someone else.  And when you do that and can truly understand where it would be to be in someone else, thatís one way of understanding empathy.

Why?  Because what mirror neurons are doing is connecting your ___________

37:53 to see what it would feel like to see someone else, and understand their emotions and understand what theyíre doing as theyíre doing it. 

So in essence, the experience of projecting into someone else is given by the neuro neurons.

EDWIN:  So, itís kind of like connecting to my own experience of what it feels like to have a wide variety of feelings, kind of taking that experience and kind of extending it.

GEORGE:  Right.  Bu I think the most important thing to understand is that this is a scientific finding.  It has to do with actual neuroscience.  And, you know, itís not at all surprising that it is a scientific finding.  And itís not one of these things that are hippie-dippie, or something like that.  Not at all.  They have to do with the most basic of human connections. 

EDWIN:  Yes, so it used to be a lot of this talk was ki8nd of based on philosophy and now itís like itís taking it out of that realm, and also maybe mysticism.  And now itís grounding it in this is actual physical science of this is what is actually happening in our minds and body.

And you didnít talk about your metaphor that you personally have for what empathy is like.  Do you have a personal metaphor? 

GEORGE:  Well, itís not just one.  I think putting yourself in someone elseís shoes, seeing the world through someone elseís eyes.  I mean, those are very, very appropriate  ones, and they work very well.

Taking someone elseís viewpoint is another one.  That viewpoint metaphor has to do with another metaphor, which is knowing is seeing, where you understand something by seeing something thoroughly.  And if you take someone elseís viewpoint, youíre seeing something really from someone elseís view, thereby understanding things the way they would  according to that metaphor. 

So that involves putting two basic metaphors together, the metaphor for the self and the metaphor for knowing is seeing. 

Iím sorry to give you all the analysis  of this.

EDWIN:  Thatís okay.  Thatís what science is about.  Itís really fine interviewing  artists, because they kind of pop those metaphors up just, you know, this day is slow

40:25??? Metaphors.  I love them too.  Theyíre a lot of fun.

GEORGE:  Theyíre wonderful.  Metaphors are what shape your brain and shape your understanding of the world.  And interesting artists are people who have understandings of the world that go beyond everyone elseís normal understandings of the world.  Which means extending metaphors.

And thatís great.  Thatís a wonderful aspect of human experience.

EDWIN:  Okay, so Iím really spending a lot of time on this empathy part, you know, the definitions.  So thanks for bearing with me.  I think itís so foundational to everything else that youíre building up about the understanding of how progressive and conservative morality works.  And understanding the dynamics.  So maybe we could start going into that more.  Kind of step by step.

So weíre at the point where we want to foster a sense of connection between this empathic connection.  And thee are things that are blocking it, and youíre saying that conservatives in some way are blocking the empathic connection?  They have a different sense of morality?

GEORGE:  Well, they have a very different theory of morality.  So if you look at conservative family models, you have a strict father family where first, the father is the ultimate authority.  He knows right from wrong, and what he says goes.  And he knows more than anybody else, and his authority cannot be challenged.  First. 

Secondly, in a family where there is a wife, and a strict father, the role of the wife is to uphold the authority of the father, and to follow that.  That, of course, isnít always true in a family, but this is the ideal case of the strict father family.

Now, of course, if there is no father around, then the mother can take the strict father role and be a strict mother in a single parent family.  Or not.  They can be either way.

Also, as I said, some people are partly nurturing and partly strict.  Now in a strict father family which is just about that, the role of the father is to teach children right from wrong.  And the assumption is that children want to do what feels good, and that thatís bad.  They donít know right from wrong.

And the role of the father is to punish them when they do wrong.  And it has to be painful enough so they will want to avoid the punishment and learn the discipline of not doing wrong.

So, part of this is the father has to punish the child painfully enough so that they will get the discipline to have moral discipline.

EDWIN:  Could we step back a little bit, in the sense that with empathy, with me, Iím looking at a culture of empathy  which is everybody listens to everybody else to the maximum amount, empathizes with everyone else.  There is maximum empathy from you to me, from me to you, to our families, to the whole of society, in that no one left out.  And then if you are talking about the strict father, youíre saying who gets heard in this situation.  Right?  Who is the one who is going to be heard among us?  Is that right?

GEORGE:  Who is going to be obeyed.  And who is going to do the punishing.   Who is going to use force.  In a strict father family, it is a moral obligation of a strict father to punish the children so that they will  become moral beings and get discipline.  And if they have discipline, then they can go out in the world and prosper.  And if therefore, someone isnít prospering, then they donít have discipline, they canít be moral, so they deserve their poverty, which is part of conservative thought.

So this is a major part of the strict father family.  Itís also the case that what youíre supposed to do is foster discipline in a child.  If the child rebels still, then the child has bad character Ė there is something wrong with the child.  Right?  And that they therefore arenít deserving.  Their will should be broken.  And thatís the way itís done in conservative child rearing manuals.  Youíre supposed to break the will of the child to obey the legitimate authority.

And that goes along in politics with a punitive view of prisons, of sentencing, and so on.  You know, i.e., rather than trying to make someone into a better person, you punish them, which assumes that is what makes them into a better person.

EDWIN:  So itís like the family model, the inner personal model is getting reflected at a societal and political level.  Then personal interaction is being manifested at that level.

You know, youíre saying that with the strict father, hereís the rules, hereís the discipline.  And isnít part of that about that itís a dangerous world, that we have to close ourselves off, we have to follow through because there is so much danger out in the world, and this is the best way of addressing that danger?

GEORGE:  Thatís exactly right.  If you go back to the Reagan era and the hearings about Iran Contra, the very first thing that was said in those hearings by the conservative witnesses is that this is a dangerous world Ė repeated over and over.  This is a dangerous world.

And that whole set, as soon as you say that, what you are doing is bringing up fear and  blocking empathy.  Itís the very first thing that happens.  And thatís a very important thing.

Now one thing that is important in a nurturant parent family is a nurturant parent also wants to get the children to be disciplined, to do things so they that are not harmed and do not harm other people.

But you do that through empathy.  That is, empathy can provide a form of internal discipline when you have a responsibility to help other people, and to empathize with them.  So that you can build a positive discipline rather than a negative discipline. 

And there are whole  books now on child rearing called positive discipline.  Very important to have positive discipline via empathy.  

So a lot of conservatives will think that the only way to be disciplined is by being punished.  And this is simply not true.  The best way is to be disciplined by thinking about other people and acting responsibly for them as well as for themselves.

EDWIN:  So in discipline, if someone has done harm to someone, itís like you can punish them and give them pain and suffering so that they hopefully donít do it again, or you can someone find a way to empathically restore empathic connection.  And there is a whole process out there Ė restorative justice Ė what I would call restorative empathy, which are processes for getting people who have done harm to each other to create a circle process and have dialogue and reconnect with each other.

GEORGE:  Yeah.  I think thatís right.  And itís very important.

EDWIN:  It seems to me that what you are talking about, really the core part is the relationship between fear and empathy, and how it relates.  Do we nurture fear, and how we deal with fear, and how do we nurture this connection between people, this empathic connection.  And with the fear being something that makes us close off, and empathy, which is something open that connects us.

GEORGE:  Well, fear is real.  And important that we evolved to have fear in the right ways.  There are things that we should fear.  There are times when you shouldnít have empathy.  If somebody is trying to kill you, you should fear them, and stop them.  Thatís real.  And attacks are going to happen.  Other people will grow up without empathy.  Thatís inevitably going to happen when you have parenting that is neglectful or harmful.  That will happen.  Or abusive. 

So, thatís real in the world.  And you should have fear in the right ways.  You should have fear about global warming.  Now fear may shut off the empathy cord of the world.  And that you donít want to do. 

What you want to do is to address the real fear by saying, look at how we connect with the world.  And we have to act positively on that.  Just promoting the fear is not going to promote the empathy needed to address global warming.

EDWIN:  You have written this book, The Little Blue Book, and itís based on what weíre talking about here on empathy and how Democrats and progressives can do more to frame their language so that it fosters empathy and fosters connection.

GEORGE:  Thatís right.  The idea is this.  The conservatives have framed just about every issue, because they have a greatly superior understanding of the role of morality in politics, whereas the Democrats have largely been thinking about the role of policy in politics.

And all policies are based on morality.  All politics is moral.  Politicians say, do what I say because itís right, not because itís wrong or doesnít matter. 

So itís all based on morality.  The q1uestion is, is it conservative morality or progressive morality.   And the conservatives have gotten their framing and their language out there.  All words are defined relative to frames.  And the frames in politics are all defined relative to moral systems.

So every policy that a conservative or a progressive has is understood relative to their understanding of hat is moral.  Now if you adopt other peopleís language, you adopt their frames and strengthen their moral system in you.  That is, youíre changing your brain and the brains of other people. 

So what you want to do is to strengthen the moral systems based on empathy.  And that means not using other peopleís language.  Not just taking their language and negating it, as if you could logically argue agai8nst it.  This isnít about logic.  Itís about understanding.

And what usually happens is that conservative framing hides a deep truth in various areas.  So in economics, the first deep truth is the private depends on the public.  You shouldnít be just privatizing.

The second one is that the public is there to carry out moral responsibilities.  So you might privatize practical things, like building roads.  You might hire local contractors, and you should.  Thatís practical privatization. 

But thereís moral privatization that should never happen.  You shouldnít turn over moral issues to private companies for their wealth.  For example, you shouldnít  have private prisons where the prisoners lives and health are there because of companies trying to make money.  And therefore, what theyíll do is cut down on prison guards, and conditions.  And people will die and be harmed by that.

But itís not just prisons.  Itís schools.  You donít just shut down public education and privatize it.  Itís immoral.

EDWIN:  So what weíre really looking at is how do we create a language of empathy, basically.  How does every policy relate to fostering, nurturing, promoting empathy.  And how do we have a language that can articulate that.

GEORGE:  But the language is secondary to the ideas.  The question is how do we understand what ideas about various ideas, like education, or the environment, flow from empathy, rather than from self-interest, and just trying to maximize your short-term profits.  Right?  How do you do that.  How does it flow from caring about other people, rather than having a strict father morality that has to do with how women are treated in society. 

It has everything to do with male empathy for women.  And thatís crucial.  Every issue has to do with empathy.  And with understanding the issues, the political and social ideas that flow from empathy.  And then you can get a language of empathy.  And when you do that, you undermine the conservative ideas.

EDWIN:  So you were talking about self-interest.  So, in a way, self-interest is about how do I shut off my empathy for others and just focus on whatís going on inside myself.

I know that this has gone on for about an hour, so I donít want to keep you.  I donít know if you have other appointments.  I could go on. 

I want to say that in my kind of exploration of existence, life, my quest for what are values, and progressive values, I was highly influenced your work.  So itís just such a pleasure to talk to you about empathy, the nature of empathy.   So I feel like it could go on for hours, exploring this.  And perhaps we can have other dialogues.  But weíve gone on for an hour, so I donít want to go over the time.

GEORGE:  Itís a real pleasure to talk with you, always.  And I have to say that I deeply admire you for taking up this most central part of our connection to other beings, our connection to the world, and the way our politics is run.  And by devoting yourself to a culture of empathy.  I think itís one of the best things one can do in life.  And thank you for that.

EDWIN:  Well, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this, and I look forward to future discussions, and working together to build a culture of empathy.  Worldwide.

GEORGE:  Absolutely.  Thank you.  Bye.

EDWIN:  Bye, George. 

 ===================================

 

  • 00:00 George Lakoff Introduction

    • Author of many Books

    • Latest book The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic

  • About his research and work

    • research on: how the physical brain does thought and language

    • how do you get ideas and language out of neurons?

    • working with group at International Computer Science Institute

      • on neural computation and cognitive linguistics

    • learned a lot about how the brain does thought and language

      • and especially metaphor

    • Metaphor - we think metaphorically - even before language

      • explains embodied cognition

      • ideas are not abstract but tied to the body

      • modes of thought

      • Metaphor uses all modes of thought - most complicated

      • how do neurons give you thought and language?

    • How does this relate to philosophy, literature, politics

      • metaphors used for mathematics as well

  • 6:00  the Little Blue Book: and how it's related to building a culture of empathy?

    • I was looking at the foundation of liberal and conservative thought

    • why do conservative have the collection of ideas they have?

    • We found two different moral systems based on notions of the family.

      • strict father

      • nurturant family

    • most people have both systems and are partly conservative and partly progressive

      • there's an explanation for this in the brain

    • two circuits in the brain and what happens when they contradict each other.

      • mutual inhibition - activating one inhibits the other.

      • the more one is used - the stronger it gets and the weaker the other gets

      • and conservatives have been taking advantage of that.

    • 8:20 What does empathy have to do with all of this?  Everything!

    • America was founded on a moral system and that system starts with empathy.

      • it says citizens care about each other - they have empathy for each other

      • they act on that - they don't just sit around and be empathic

        • they act by forming a government that creates a concept of the Public

      • the public provides provisions for everyone, roads, bridges, etc. etc

      • this is absolutely necessary and it starts with empathy

  • 10:15 Your saying that empathy is what progressive values are based on,
    How are you defining empathy? What's your working definition?

    • Empathy arises physically.

    • Empathy is a physically phenomenon.

    • This was discover in Parma Italy, in the eraily1990s

      • Discovered by Vittorio Gallese and group

      • Studying premotor cortex and motor neurons

      • Discovered mirror neurons

    • the same neurons involved in acting are involved in perceiving the same action.

      • has to do with moving your face and muscles and body,

      • the emotional system is tied to your body,,

      •  so move the physical and we feel the emotional

      • the physicality of the emotions has been studied, Paul Ekman did the original work

      • we know what the body does when we feel certain emotions

      • we know what parts of the brain are active with those emotions

    • It turns out you can tell grossly what emotions other people are feeling

      • are they happy, sad, depressed, pain,

      • you can tell by looking at someone if there's some extreme emotions they have,

      • that's a very important thing

      • you can also tell if they are in the middle of some motor program

      • are they picking up a glass of water to take a drink

      • anticipating action

    • The idea of empathy is this.

      • You have a physical ability to connect with other people

      • to see what they are doing with their bodies as if it were your body.

      • and then to see what their muscles are doing,  and the brain automatically connects them to the emotional regions to give you a sense of what their emotions are, as if they were your emotions.

    • 13:50  There are also parts of the brain that distinguish between yours and theirs.

      • the mirror neurons fire somewhat less intensely when we see someone else doing an action than when your actually doing it.

      • it's more complicated than that, only 30% of them work exactly this way.

    •  Canonical neurons - fire when you do an action sequence

      • a set of neurons for connecting you to the world, in terms of the normal things you experience in the world.

      • you can see we evolved to have this.

      • we evolved to interact with the physical world in normal ways

    • So we have parts of the brain that connect us socially and emotionally to other people and to the physical world.

    • 15:30 Those parts of the brain can be either enhanced, by being raised in the right way or can be killed off, by being raised in the wrong way. and that is a very important thing. The way you are raised. What kind of family you are in. What your parents do, has everything to do with whether you are going to be an empathetic person.

    • Progressive View

      •  That physical basis is the bases for not just progressive thought but the basis of American democracy.

    • Conservative View

      • The alternative to that, in terms of democracy, is the conservative view. That democracy is about liberty. The liberty to seek your own well being and your own self interest without being responsible for well being or self interest of anybody else. Everything is a mater of individual responsibility, and not social responsibility.

  •  16:40 Taking a step back to mirror neurons. modeling mirror neurons with waving hands. We have a connection.

    •  It's also a metaphorical connection

    • the major metaphor for communication is sending ideas to someone else through some conduit and your tracing out that conduit with your hands.

    • This was discovered back in 1980 by researchers doing work on gestures.. They discovered there are metaphorical gestures. Now there's a whole field that studies metaphorical gestures.

  • 17:50 The actions turn into a metaphor?  A visceral felt emotional experience.

    • language can do the same. can create visceral felt emotional experiences.

    • that's why people read novels, go to movies

    • every idea and metaphor is physical in a neural circuit

    • everything you understand is in a physical neural circuit in your brain

    • Imagination: the circuits can be activated independent of what is external

      • you can imagine things.

    • The same neural structures that are used for seeing and moving are also used for imagination

    • The same neural circuitry for feeling is also used for imagination

    • Imagine a flying pig. where are the wings? where is the snout

      • what you are doing is putting together the structure of a bird and a pig

      • and your creating a flying pig, even though pigs can't fly

      • you could also create super swine with a different structure

    • Dreams work the same way - study of the metaphorical structure of dreams

      • the normal metaphor structure is interacting with your everyday concerns to structure your dreams

    • religious visions - are also metaphorical

      • gives you an experience coming from the insides and you attribute it to being external

      • like people who hear voices which are generated from the inside

    • the brain can create inferences, knowledge, inferences, ideas and this applies to politics and human relationships.. relationships to your loved ones, family, friends.

    • It turns out that empathy is right at the center of all of these issues.

  •  21:40 Definition of empathy, mirrored and imaginative empathy?

    • they are not separate. they are the same mechanism in the brain

    • they are not different  from the perspective of how the brain works they are one phenomenon

    • Perspective taking means that you can activate the same circuits that would be involved in interacting with someone else.

    • and it may be interacting with an imaginary person or image of what god might be.

    • You can have empathy of all sorts, what gives rise to the multiple definitions is our folk theory of how the brain and mind works. The folk theory is that our thoughts are abstract, that they are separate from the body, and that is just false. As soon as you understand how thought works physically, you see that there is really one mechanism. From a scientific point of view, there is just one empathy.

  • 23:34 It's like the perspective taking is imagining someone else, and using the mirror neuron circuitry to activate the feelings?

    • In doing that you are activating that circuitry.

    • your activating an imaginative version of  mirror neuron circuitry.

    • where you are imagining perceiving and your imagining acting, moving your body and therefore imagining  the emotions that go along with the physicality of emotion.

  • 24:15 If we want to build a culture of empathy, what we want to do is enhance that process and there's all kinds of blocks to the process?

    • let me tell you some of the blocks

    • when you look at the strict father model of morality, which is the basis of conservative thought, it's based on a notion of a strict father family. and that's a moral system. The question is, where does our morality come from. The same place it turns out.

    • Our morality has to do with our well being and the well being of others.

    • Growing up we experience well being and ill-being in different contexts

    • those contexts give rise to a metaphorical understanding of morality

    • For example, your better off if you each pure food than if you eat rotten food.

    • So morality is purity - immorality is rottenness

    • various morality metaphors

    • Nurture versus obedience  metaphors

      • You will learn metaphors for morality, even before you learn to talk

        • the language will follow suite

        • everyone learns both of them;

      • the question is which one is enhanced and which one is not enhanced.

      • if your neglected of beaten from the time you are born, one thing will happen

      • if you are loved and cuddled - another thing will happen

      • those are really crucial in all of these circumstances

  • 29:00 So how do we foster empathy in children from the very beginning.
    What about the aspect of fear as a block to empathy?

    • fear is a natural emotion, it has to do with homeostasis in the body that maintains safety.

    • it shuts down empathy with your attacker,

    • if your attacker is your parent  - then the possibility for empathy are cut down

    • fear has the mechanism of shutting down empathy with the person you fear

      • its mutual inhibition

    • So it's very important to overcome that fear and cultivate that empathy

    • and I can't stress how important childhood it.

      • by the time your 5, half of your neural connections die

      • what happens between birth and 5, shapes your brain

      • that's why early experience is the most important determinant of the possibilities of empathy

  • 31:30  I'm just becoming aware of early attachment and mirroring of the baby and child?

    • Book on Moral Politics there's a chapter of raising children

      • a whole chapter on attachment theory

      • early attachment is extremely important in building empathy

    • this started with the study of killers - they tried to figure out how killers were brought up

      • they were largely brought up without empathy.

    • Attachment theory is a very important part of raising children

    • Abuse theory. what is the opposite - how are children abused?

      • when they are physically punished when they do things that are wrong.

      • versus being positively being reinforced.

    • The word empathy is sometimes confused, especially by conservatives with sympathy.

    • do conservatives have less empathy?  in terms of the science of it? I don't know.

    • studies show - conservatives have ingroup nurturance, they take care of people in their group, but not out group

    • this is certainly true in the military. You form teams and people take care of each other, but they're  fighting people outside.

    • It's not that conservatives don't have empathy for anybody. They may very well have empathy for their friends and neighbors

  • 35:00 Ingroup and out groups

    • the issue of empathy and what blocks it is at the center of all social life.and political life

  • 35:30 I've been asking people about their metaphors of empathy, and for them to come up with one on their own that's not the common one of standing in some one else's shoes or looking through their eyes. Everyone comes up with very different metaphor. For me, empathy is like a cornucopia, it opens a door to a wide variety of feelings and experiences. What is your metaphor of empathy?

    • first, let's look at those.

    • Yours has to do with the causal effect, rather than the direct experience.

      • the others have to do with the direct experience or having someone else's experience.

    • that has to do with another metaphor system that has to do with the self.

    • Book., Philosophy in the Flesh, looks at metaphors.

      • Difference of the self and locus of copiousness

      • is seen as separate from your body.

      • one dissociation is you versus your body

      • you versus your social roles

      • you versus some other person inside you

    • there's a whole set of these metaphors, almost 2 dozen for understanding who we are.

    • those metaphors of self will be used to understand empathy metaphorically

      • so the question is, can you project your conscious experience, your consciousness, called subject, into someone else.

      • then when you can truly understand what it would be like to be in someone else, that's one way of understanding empathy. Why, because your mirror neurons are connecting your emotionally to see what it would be like to be someone else and understand their emotions. Also understand what they're doing it as they're doing it.

    •  in essence, the experience of projecting into someone else is given by the mirror neurons.

    • The most important part of this is that it's a scientific finding. It has to do with actual neuro science.

      • it's not hippy dippy

  • 39:01  A lot of this used to be based on philosophy and perhaps mysticism and now we have the science of what's physically happening in our mind and body. What is your metaphor?

    • the shoes and eyes metaphor.  are very appropriate ones. they work very well.

      •  taking someone else's view point is another one.

    • the viewpoint metaphor has another one which is knowing - and seeing

      • where you understand something by seeing something thoroughly

      • that involves putting two basic metaphor together.

        • the metaphor for self and the metaphor for knowing and seeing

  • 40:00 metaphpr are a lot of fun.. interviewing artists they just pop up new metaphors all the time

    • metaphors are what shape the brain and shape the understanding of the world

    • interestingly artists have an understanding of the world that go beyond everyone else's normal understanding of the world. Which means they are extending metaphors.

      • and that is great. it's a wonderful aspect of human experience.

  • 41:00 are you saying that conservatives are blocking empathy, and have a different sense of morality?

    • they have a different theory of morality.

    • 1. Strict father morality, he knows right from wrong. what he says goes, he knows more than everyone else and his authority can not be challenged.

    • 2. the role of the wife is to to uphold the authority of the father. 

    • the role of the father is to teach children to do what's right,, children want to do what's bad.

      •  father punishes them

      • learn discipline

  • 42:30 Could be step back for a minute.. For me, I want to build a culture of empathy, where there is maximum empathy between all people. So with a strict father system, it's about who will be heard among us?

    • not just heard, but who is going to be obeyed. and who is going to do the punishing,

    • who is going to use force

    • in a strict father family there's a moral obligation to punish the children so that they become moral beings.

    • if they have discipline, they can go out in the world and prosper,

    • the will should be broken to obey the authority

    • the idea is that punishment makes them into a better person

  • 45:30 - so the family model then gets reflected at a societal and political level..

  • Isn't the strict father about it being a dangerous world and we have to close ourselves off because we have to protect ourselves and address (or fight) the danger?

    • that's exactly right.

      • Remember the Regan era and the Contra hearings, the first thing what was said was that this is a dangerous world. repeated over and over

      • as soon as you do that, your bringing up fear and blocking empathy.

      • that's the very first thing that happens. and that's a very important thing.

    • One thing that's important in the nurturant family, is that they want the children to be disciplined.

      so that they do things so they are not harmed and do not harm others.

      • but you do that through empathy.

      • empathy can provide a form of internal discipline, when you have a responsibility to help other people and empathize with them.

      • so that you can build a positive discipline rather than a negative discipline.

      • there are whole books now on child rearing called positive discipline.

    • a lot of conservatives will think that the only way to have discipline is by being punished.

      • that's not true

    • the best way is to be disciplined by thinking of other people and acting responsibly for them as well as for yourself.

  • 48:00 if someone has done harm, you can punish them  and give them pain and suffering. so they hopefully don't do it again. Or you can find a way to restore empathic connection. And there's a whole process out there, restorative justice or what I would call restorative empathy, to help restore connection.

    • yes, I think that is right and very important.

  • 48:40 Seems that the core is how empathy and fear relate.

    • fear is real and important

    • we evolved to have fear in the right ways, there are things we should fear.

    • there are times when you shouldn't have empathy.

    • if someone is trying to kill you, they should stop

      • that's real

    • attacks are going to happen, there will be people who grow up without empathy.

    • you should have fear in the right ways.

    • should have fear about global warming

    • we don't want to have fear turn off the empathy for the world, and that's not what we want to do.

    • we want to address the real fear.

    • just promoting the fear is not going to address the global warming

  • 50:30 your Blue Book is then based on what were talking about here on how democrats and progressives can do more to frame there language so that it fosters empathy and connection.

    • that's right

    • the conservatives have framed just about ever issue because they have a greatly superior understanding of the role of morality in politics.

    • while democrats have been thinking about the role of Policy which is based on morality

      • all politics is moral

      • politicians say, do what I say because it's right, not because it doesn't matter

    • so the question is, is it conservative morality or progressive morality

    • what you want to do is strengthen the moral systems based on empathy.

    • and that means not using other peoples language.

      • not taking their language an negating it as if you could logically ague against it.

      • this isn't' about logic, it's about understanding

    • and what usually happens is that conservative framing hides a deep truth.

      • in economics, it's that the private depends on the public

      • the public is there to carry out moral responsibilities.

      • you shouldn't turn over moral issues to private companies

  • 53:00 So what we are looking at, is how to create a language of empathy.
    How does every policy relate to fostering, nurturing and promoting empathy. 
    And how do we have a language that can articulate that?

    • the language is secondary to the ideas,

    • the question is, how do we understand what ideas about various,  like education or the environment flow from empathy, rather than self-interest and just trying to maximize your short term profits.

    • how does it flow from caring about other people rather than having a strict father morality

    • every issue has to do with empathy and understanding the ideas.

    • The political and social ideas that flow from empathy and then you can get a language of empathy and when you do that, you undermine the conservative ideas.

  • 55:30 We've gone for about an hour and you have other appointment so I don't want to go over our time?

    • It's a real pleasure to talk with you always, and I have to say, I deeply admire you for taking up this most central part of our connection to other beings, our connection to the world and the way our politics is run and by devoting yourself to a culture of empathy. I think it's one of the best things one could do in life and I thank you for that.

  • I look forward to future discussion and working together to build a culture of empathy.

  • thank you

  • thank you George

  • bye

 

 

 

 

The following video clips are excerpts of the sections on empathy from various talks.
Each clip is followed by a written outline.

 

 

2010-12-10- Untellable Truths - Huffington Post
Democrats need to unite behind a simple set of moral principles and to create an effective language to express them. President Obama in his campaign expressed those principles simply, as the basis of American democracy.
(1) Empathy -- Americans care about each other.
(2) Responsibility, both personal and social. We have to act on that care....

Presidents can have a discourse-changing power if they know how to use it and care to use it. But they cannot do it alone. If there is a teachable communication moment for President Obama, this is it. Bring back "empathy" -- "the most important thing my mother taught me." Speak of "empathy" for "people who are hurting." Say again how empathy is basis of democracy ("caring for your fellow citizens"), how we have a responsibility to act on that empathy: social as well as personal responsibility. Bring the central role of empathy in democracy to the media. And make it clear that personal responsibility alone is anti-patriotic, the opposite of what America is fundamentally about. That is the first step in telling our most important untellable truths. And it is a necessary step in loosening the conservative grip on public discourse.
 

 

How Brains Think
4th International Conference on Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, May 2014, Sarajevo
(old and new understandings of reason)

 

 

 

2005-2007

 
 

2005-06-03 - George Lakoff - Democratic Party Future - C-span
Washington Journal
37:00

Mr. Lakoff talked about the future of the Democratic Party and progressive policy issues. He spoke on the last day of a progressive political... to viewer comments and questions. George Lakoff is the author of [Don't Think of an...

 

2006-06-10 - George Lakoff - Progressive Movement and the Internet - C-span
YearlyKos Convention
01:06

As part of the first YearlyKos convention titled, "YearlyKos: Uniting the Netroots," members of the first panel talked about communicating progressive ideas at the grassroots level. Topics included political...
 

2006-01-12 - George Lakoff - Don't Think of an Elephant - C-span
Commonwealth Club of California
59:00

George Lakoff talked about his book Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives, published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company.
 

Empathy Section

  • Nurturing Parent Model

  • nurturing is empathy and responsibility

  • teach children to be nurturing

  • has consequences

    • empathy and responsibility

    • protection

    • fulfillment

    • freedom

    • opportunity

  • create a caring community

     
 

2006-07-17- George Lakoff - Whose Freedom - ForaTV
Book Passage
01:18

Talks
about Whose Freedom: How the Right is Stealing Our Most Precious Idea and What We Can Do About It.

01.  Moderator Introduction
02. 
The Idea of the Book: In the Name of Freedom
03. 
Freedom: A Contested Concept
04. 
Traditional Freedom
05. 
Radical Conservatives
06. 
Expansions of Freedom
07. 
Progressive vs Conservative Freedom
08. 
Physical Freedom
09. 
Achieving Goals
10. 
Political Freedom
11. 
Freedom of the Will
12. 
Imposing Freedom
13. 
"Strict Father" Model
14. 
"Nurturing Parent" Model
15. 
Causation
16. 
Conservative Populism
17. 
Economic Liberty
18. 
Religious Liberty
19. 
Causation of Essence
20. 
Free Market Freedom
21. 
Q
22. 
Q1 - Uncontested Freedom
23. 
Q2 - Operation of Government
24. 
Q3 - Supreme Court: Eminent Domain
25. 
Q4 - Freedom from Fear
26. 
Q5 - Framing / World Views
27. 
Q6 - The Progressive Handbook

     
  2006-10-12 - George Lakoff - Bringing Progressive Politics Back To The People University of California's Washington Center
55:21
 
George Lakoff, author of "Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision" joins Burce Cain of the University of California's Washington Center for ...
 

2007-05-08 - George Lakoff - Fora - Framing the Debate
2007-05-09 - Framing the Debate - C-span v2
Cody's Books
01:20

Framing the Debate - Jeffrey Feldman and George Lakoff on Framing the Debate:

 

2007-07-12 - George Lakoff - Authors@Google - Whose Freedom
57:54

Author George Lakoff discusses his book "Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea" as a part of the Authors@Google series.

  • Introduction

  • My understanding of what Google is

    • the major force in the world for the democratization of information

  • he's for democratization of knowledge

  • virtually all tough is unconscious

  • emotions is necessary for reason

  • studies of the brain

  • enlightenment reason

    • we can govern ourselves

    • but the view of the mind in not accurate

  • metaphor is important

    • every thought uses metaphor of some kind

    • arise unconsciously

    • more is up less is down

    • neural circuit is the metaphor

  • this shows up in politics

    • war on terror

    • repeated over and over until it becomes part or your brain

  • what is conservative and progressive thought

  • metaphor of governing of the family

    • conservative - morality is obedience to an authority

      • world is dangerous

      • support

      • kids born bad

      • must teach right from wrong with punishment

    • progressive  - morality is care

      • nurture child

      • empathy, caring, responsibility

      • empower child

    • we have many combinations of these view in life

    • morality as strength

    • immorality as disease

  • view of family is mapped onto the government

    • market is strict father

    • conservatives say government can interfere with market by

      • regulation

      • taxation

      • workers rights

      • lawsuits

    • progressive market is there to

      • help people

      • be fair

      • regulation for protection

      • taxation for protection and empowerment

  • Religion

    • fundamentalist

      • strict father

    • progressive

      • god is nurturing

  • Foreign policy

  • Education

    • conservative

      • teach the test

      • punitive - punishment

      • production and a product

    • progressive start adopting conservative views

      • education is about development

      • develop people

  • Energy

  • Media adopts conservative way of speaking

  • Rockridge Institute creates truth in framing

  • Changing language is not just changing words

  • Words reflect a world view

  • Freedom

    • Bush Talked about freedom

    • Contested concepts with basic understanding

    • Then each has it's own definition that relates to worldview

  • Most important words are contested

  • Q: how is responsibility used?

    • conservative

      • is personal individual responsibility

      • causation is direct by one person

      • crime is bad people

      • government official accountability is to the guy at the top

    • progressive

      • attachment to others

      • global systemic and social responsibility

      • crime is from a  system

      • government official accountability is to the public

  • Q:  what about female nurturing?

    •  when did nutrient start?

  • Q: Is Dem leadership listening?

    • some

  • Q: Don't think of an elephant and framing?

    • biconceptualism

  • Q: Who gets to do the framing, what can we do?

    • if you have a sense of right and wrong - your doing framing

    • we need to give language to them

    • we all need to do this.

    • Democratization of knowledge

  • Q: Any specific methodologies for making the unconscious conscious

    • look at the underlying moral premise behind thoughts

    • look at language

 

2006-07-20 - George Lakoff - Whose Freedom? - C-span
Commonwealth Club of California | Silicon Valley
57:00

George Lakoff talked about his book Whose Freedom?

Empathy Section

  • Nurturing Parent Model

  • nurturing is empathy and responsibility

  •  from empathy and responsibility all progressive Values Follow

  • 2 models of freedom

    • causation

      • conservative have direct causation

      • progressive - systemic causation based on empathy

  2007-08-16 - George Lakoff - Moveon.org Iraq Rally
Berkeley, CA
Video by Edwin Rutsch 
05:13


Cost of Iraq Occupation Rally Berkeley, CA. Report Release, Extended Speeches
 

2007-11-07 - George Lakoff - Language of Political Candidates - C-span
2007-11-07 - Lakoff - Language of Political Candidates - FloraTV
New York Public Library 
01:26

In the second panel discussion, "Deceiving Images: The Science of Manipulation," Frank Luntz and others talked about how political candidates use language.

Berkeley George Lakoff explains that liberals and conservatives have different world views which determine their positions on issues.

 

 


2008
 
  2008-01-28 - George Lakoff - How Democrats & Progressives Can Win
00:05

HOW DEMOCRATS & PROGRESSIVES CAN WIN: Solutions from George Lakoff DVD is a tool for political change.

  2008-04-15 - George Lakoff - Mark Danner in Conversation
01:50

George Lakoff in conversation with Mark Danner: George Lakoff's application of cognitive science and linguistics to politics has brought him to national attention.
2008-06-03 - George Lakoff - How to Make Friends and Manipulate
New America Foundation
01:14

The interaction between mind, politics and society? George Lakoff is a New York Times bestselling author and his new book, The Political Mind: Why You ...
 

2008-06-04 - George Lakoff - Authors@Google - The Political Mind
01:03
 

The Authors@Google program was pleased to welcome author and professor George Lakoff to Google's New York office to discuss his new book, "The Political Mind". 
 

 Empathy Section

  • Conservative Model - Strict Father

  • Progressive Model - Nurturing Family 

    • Mapped on to politics

      • Empathy and caring is at heart of it

      • protection and empowerment

  • Mirror Neurons discovery

    • show how empathy works

    • empathy is physical

    • fire when we cooperate

    • we naturally connect with others

  • has to do with progressive politics

  • The Obama Campaign

    • empathy is the hearth about the campaign

    • mentions it in many of his speeches

    • List of speeches

      • patriotism - people caring for each other

      • mother taught him empathy

      • Obama's policies are based on empathy

      • Foreign polices has to do with empathy

        • major problems are at the level of the individual not at national level

      • Bipartisanship - uniting the country means;

        • Clinton - will more to the right

        • Obama - will activate empathy

          • Progressives, Conservatives, Bi-Conceptual

          • appeal to empathy and places where they agree

      • This country was based on empathy

        • Lynn Hunt - self-evident equality and empathy

          • art and novels teach empathy

    • Why is this not understood?

      • because of the enlightenment reason

      • different understanding of words

        • i.e. freedom

  2008-06-04 - George Lakoff  - on The Political Mind
00:04

Linguist and professor George Lakoff, author of The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain, says it's all about
..
2008-06-14 - George Lakoff - at Codys Books
Cody's Books
01:40
 

 

2008-07-17 - George Lakoff - The Political Mind - Austin, TX - C-span
BookPeople
01:24

Cognitive science and linguistics professor George Lakoff talked about his book, The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain.

Empathy section

  • Is the major purpose of reason to pursue self-interest? no

  • 1996 - discovery of mirror neurons

    • monkeys and humans have mirror neurons

    • we mirror each other

    • can feel each others emotions, joy, pain, etc,

    • we are biologically set up for empathy

    • upbringing can modify that - support or inhibit

    • a large part of reason is used for empathy and connecting with others and cooperating

  • Reason and Politics?

    • reason is as much about empathy as self-interest

    • why does it matter?

  • We need a new Enlightenment of Real Reason

    • empathy is the basis of our democracy

    • starts with empathy is the basis of our democracy

    • constitutions 'equality being self evident' came from people reading novels, paintings, arts, about the poor and having empathy - 1750's

    • constitution and laws are a way to carry out empathy

    • our democracy is based on empathy

    • empathy creates the basis of morality - ethics

  • Canonical neurons - link us to the physical environment

    • train people to feel the physical world

  • New Enlightenment we need to train people to feel the physical world

    • Train people in increasing empathy

  • Old Enlightenment reason is false, empirically false

    • Enlightenment says should favor science because it's rational and logical

    • scientist say old rationality is not reasonable

    • real rational says science is based on metaphor, metaphorical thought

    • dispassionate - versus passionate

  • Q and A

  • Obama's body  and no anxiety

    • you feel his calmness

    • mirror neurons - you feel his internality

  2008-06-19 - George Lakoff - On Rationality and Politics
theyoungturks.com
21:50

 
   

2008-06-20 - George Lakoff - The Political Mind - ForaTV
Commonwealth Club of California
01:05


2008-10-02 - George Lakoff - Debate Party with Susan Griffin
01:28

 
October 2, 2008 - Joe Biden and Sarah Palin Debate watch party at the Albany, CA Public Library, with authors Susan Griffin & George Lakoff.
Video by Edwin Rutsch 

 

2008-12-30 - George Lakoff -  UO Today Show #379
U Oregon
28:44

This episode features George Lakoff, world renowned linguist and progressive political analyst. George Lakoff is a Professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of ...

  • Politics and the Brain?

    • It's all relevant

    • Enlightenment Reasoning says

      • thought is conscious - you know what you think.

      • reason is dispassionate,

        • unemotional

        •  logical

      • literally fits the world

      • universal, we all reason the same way

      • is abstract

      • is for self interest.

      • It's all false - every part

        • thought is conscious - you know what you think.

          • most reason is not accusable to contious thought

        • reason is dispassionate,

          • need emotion to reason

          • Dematio studies

        • unemotional

        •  logical

          • we think in term of metaphors and frames

        • literally fits the world

          • is not literal

        • universal, we all reason the same way

          • have a logic of their own

          • not formal logic

        • is abstract

          • thought is not abstract

          • is based on the way our bodies work

        • imagine drawing - imagine, dream same brain lights up

          • meaning is capacity for imagination

          • every idea is physically

      •  Empathy Section

        • Self interest  6:27

          • Self vr.  mirror neurons.

          • are connected to others

          • neuron are connected to emotion

          • Empathy is physical

          • we have inherited capacity for empathy

          • it's in our brains

        • reason is

          • unconscious

          • has emotional ties

          • metaphorical - not literal

          • not abstract but physical

          • not on self interest but on empathy

          • 8:00

  • Where's the hope for America if still have18th century thinking?

    • things progress

    • need to rethink politics, etc.

    • conservatives have controlled language and gotten their ideas out.

    • language is not neutral

    • need to get rid of old notion of reason

  • 'It's in the self interest to attack a country', how would you address this?

    • it's a metaphor

    • idea is a notion that countries have self interest

    • foreign policy at level of the state

    • most important are at the level of person

    • need to change that.

    • terror is not at level of state

  • As linguist, what drew you to linguistics?

    • liked math and poetry

    • loved language and wanted to understand how mind worked

  • Collaboration with Mark Johnson?

    • he worked on metaphor

    • thought is metaphorical

    • wrote a book together Philosophy in Flesh

  • What did you learn about collaboration?

    • people work together in science community

  • What about framing and freedom?

    • Inspired by Bushes use of freedom in speech

    • contested concepts

    • definition depends on your worldview

    • shared metaphor

      • freedom of motion

      • freedom of action

    • conservative

      • freedom to

      • discipline and authority

      • freedom comes from accepting authority

      • are you disciplined enough to follow authority

      • freedom is spread of capitalism

    • progressive

      • freedom from

      • government protects you in many ways\

      • taxis maintain freedom

  • How success have you been in affecting politics?

    • half full

    • big job is to change ideas and have not succeed well.

 

2009
 
     
  2009-05-27 - George Lakoff - How he started his work on metaphor
08:35

George Lakoff on how he started his work on conceptual metaphor,
 particularly the 'LOVE IS A JOURNEY' metaphors.
  • thinking in terms of a metaphor
  • many metaphors of love.
 

2009-07-27 - George Lakoff - Empathy and Sustainability Part 1 of 6
George Lakoff's presentation for the World Changing Careers Conference
08:53

  • Overview of minds

  • we have 1650, Descartes view of mind

  • called Enlightenment reason

    • 1. you know what you think

      • actually is 98% unconscious

    • 2. reason is dispassionate

      • can't be rational without being emotional

      • Demasio studies

    • 3. can reason directly about the world

      • false -you can think with your brain - everything comes thought your body

      • brain is not a computer - it has a structure

      • you think in frames

      • Frame Analysis -

      • every word is defined in terms of a frame

        • that structure in a neural structure

        • they are not neutral

        • they come in systems

        • world and moral views

        • metaphors - modes of thought

        • system of metaphors is learned before language

          • ie.  affection is warm

      • development of neural connections

Empathy and Sustainability Part 2

  • 4:00 Imitating a baby

  • You are hard wired for empathy and cooperation

  • empathy wiring can get stronger or weaker deepening on how your brought up

  • 0-5 years old half neuro connections die off if not used

Empathy and Sustainability Part 3

  • Morality: obedience versus nurture

    • Obedience

      • kids are born bad

      • need punishment,

      • discipline - become economically prosperous

Frameworks, Empathy and Sustainability part 4

  • pt4 2:50 What does that say about empathy?

    • a nurturant family is based on empathy

    • you have to communicate

    • responsible for self and others

    • raise child to be empathic

      • opposite of indulgence

  • mirror neurons - premotor cortex

    • these neurons connect you to the physical world

    • connect you to the environment and other animals.

    • this can be straightened or weakened over time

    • this is basis for an environmental morality and ethic

    • has to be learned  - your connection to the physical world

  • 1:14 mutual inhibitions, 2 different moralities

    • neural binding

    • conservative on some things - progressives on others.

    •  

2009-08-03 - George Lakoff - Politics of Language - ForaTV
Commonwealth Club
01:05
empathy at 7:00,  54:00
  • 01. Introduction
  • 02. Misconceptions About Rational Thought
    • we grew up with an old view of the mind
    • Old view of reason is
      • 1. conscious, you know what you think
      • 2. reason is dispassionate
        • emotions feeling get in the way of reason
      • 3. fits the world directly
      • 4. reason makes us human
      • 5. what makes us rational is thinking logically
      • 6. is disembodied - abstract
      • 7. reason developed to serve self interest
      • 8. words are neutral
    • Science says these are all false
      •   98% of thought  unconscious
      •   can not think rationally without emotion
        • discovery by Tonio Demosio
        • need feelings to tell you what you like or dislike
      •   think with our brain which runs a body
      • everything comes
      • Brains is structured and depends on what you've experienced..
      • brain is structure by frames and metaphors
      • every word is defined by such a structure
      • Empathy Section
      • brain for self interest and connection - mirror neurons
      • mirror neurons is how you feel others experience
      • that is the  basis of empathy and they fire more when we cooperate
      • we have a biological bases for empathy and cooperation
      • a lot of reasoning is used for empathy and connection
      • this is very important
      • Language is not neutral
  • 03. The History of Frames
    • Filmore, etc - discovered that each word is related to a frame structure
    • Every word is defined by a frame
    • Enlightenment Reason
      • you think if you tell people the truth they will come to the right conclusion
  • 04. California Budget Crisis
    • 114 word ballet initiative
    • California has minority rule
    • 1/3 +1 can control
    • minority rule has lead us to ruin
    • what stands in the way?
      • Democratic leadership
      • Asked bad polls
      • Rank and file is behind California Democracy Act
    • Democratic leadership learned Enlightenment Reason
  • 05. Conservative Communication Machine
    • has overwhelming message machine
    • they have a system for training conservatives
    • democrats have no system
  • 06. Inadequate Health Care Messaging
    • Dems go for 'truth' and policies
    • conservatives talk about values
    • Regan ran on: values, communications. truth. authenticity, identity
    • keep repeating the same language and people start believing it.
    • Democrats do not say what is true, but give policy lists
    • Public Option was bad name - should be the American plan
    • Health companies are the villain
  • 07. Leaders Do Not Lead, the Public Leads
    • the public leads
    • leaders need a marching band to get out ahead of
    • a minority in causing the problems in California
  • 08. Q1: Strict Father vs. Nurturing Parent
    • there are 2 world views
    • conservative and progressives
    • family values
    • nation metaphor as family
    • 2 kinds of families
    • Strict Father - James Dobson spokesperson
      • need strict father to protect the family
      • to support the
      • kids are born bad
      • need painful physical punishment
      • need to be disciplined,
      • if your poor you deserve it
      • market is right
    • Empathy Section
    • Nurturing Parent
      • starts with empathy
      • need to be responsible
      • teach children to be empathetic and responsible
      • need to become better
      • these words are spoken by Barack Obama
        • from Fathers Day Speech
      • Obama argues the basis of democracy is empathy
      • why fairness and freedom for everyone not just powerful?
      • because we care about each other
      • that's the job of government
        • protection
        • empowerment
      • taxes are for protection an empowerment
  • 09. Q2: Why People Vote Against Their Interests
    • why do poor conservatives work against their interests
    • they vote on their identifies
    • they have strict father views
    • they invented terms,  liberal elite, etc
    • Idea is that liberals look down on them
  • 10. Q3: Sarah Palin
    • she understands conservative values
  • 11. Q4: Conservatives and Truth Telling
    • people pick and choose their facts
  • 12. Q5: The Liberal Media
    • is no liberal media,
    • is owned by conservatives
    • journalists are taught old reason and conservative message machine
  • 13. Q6: Moral Frame for Health Care Reform
    • what would be a moral frame?
    • a matter of life and death and a moral issue
    • villains: insurance companies try to deny care for profits
  • 14. Q7: Understanding of Political Consultants
    • some media consultants understand this
    • Obama had good campaign
    • starting to depend on bad polls
  • 15. Empathy Section
        
    Q8: President Obama's Communication
    • is Obama his own frame?
    • you see empathy all over him.
    • it reflects empathy
    • where he goes wrong he tries to be a policy wonk
    • he's not taking on the enemies
    • hope and change - what does it mean?
    • listen to the previous sentences - they talked about empathy and responsibility
    • governing is harder
    • Reagan had moral reference what should Obama do?
    • he needs to be less of a policy wonk and  needs to talk about the moral stance
    • He's smart but he needs to take on the villains
  • 16. Q9: Two-Thirds Requirements on Budget
    • this is California weirdness
  • 17. Q10: Frames for Second Language Speakers
    • is political frame meant to deceive?
    • war gives president war powers
  • 18. Q11: Nancy Pelosi
    • what would you tell Nancy Pelosi?
    • she's facing a divided party in 3.
    • has dealt with in well
    • she could learn how to frame the messages better
  • 19. Q12: Social Networks
    • effect on identity
    • good for organizing
    • a tool
 

2009-09-21 - George Lakoff - ASUC Budget Panel
07:31

Professor George Lakoff educated the audience about the effects of Prop 13, which was brought about in the 1970s. Exclaims about getting a ballot proposition for 2010 to get ...

  • Prop 13

    • corporations get cheep taxes

    • 1/3rds rule

    • sounds democratic - but 1/3 controls

    • republicans control the house

    • proposed ballet initiative

    • you can organize

    • many problems of minority role
    • how to organize
2010
2010-02-19 - George Lakoff on the California Democracy Act
at the City Commons Club of Berkeley
00:53
Video by Edwin Rutsch 


Empathy Section
Edwin: Where is your current thinking on building an empathy based movement?

   
  • When Obama is asked to support a initiative, he asks "where is the movement."
  • There needs to be a movement behind each initiative.
  • Politicians need a movement to get out in from off.
  • The movement starts with you and me.
  • We've started a speakers bureau.
  • We need to talk about what democracy is about.
  • We need to build a structure.
  • People need to support this financially.

 

2010-02-25 - George Lakoff on the California Democracy Act
at the San RamonVelley Democratic Club
00:50
Video by Edwin Rutsch 

 

Empathy Section
Edwin: What is the relationship of empathy to democracy and the Californians for Democracy Act?

 
  • Empathy is part of the description and in the literature.
  • Best explanation of the relationship of empathy and democracy is from Obama.
    • Obama says patriotism begins with citizens caring for each other
  • Freedom and fairness for everyone is based on this
  • Role of government is;
    • protection
    • empowerment
      • road, bridges,
      •  communications systems
      • laws
      • etc.
  • There is no self made person, depends on the social systems
  • Now the top 1% owns more assets then the bottom 90%
  • California Democracy Act will help bring democracy back

 


George Lakoff speaking at McNally Robinson Part 3

 

  • Mirror neurons - book 'Mirroring People'

  • mirror neuron connected to emotional center

  • you experience in your body what other peoples emotions are

  • little kids get scared when others get scared.

  • Obama ran on empathy - the central idea

  • the times Obama talked about empathy

    • with Anderson Cooper

    • An Curie

    • etc.

  • Foreign policy is based on empathy

  • Taliban taking over is anti empathy

  • Empathy is at center of his policy

  • his sotires are about empathy

  • he sees that America is founded on empathy

  • protection - empowerment

George Lakoff speaking at McNally Robinson Part 4

  • Q and A

  • Question about empathy - why are people unempathic

    • we have capacity for empathy but it can be lots

    • in early childhood,

    • need to reinforce empathy - develop it.

    • are conservatives abused children?

    •  

 

Recorded December 1, 2011 - George Lakoff, "Retaking Political Discourse"

 

  • politics and cognitive science

  • Heath care plan

    • lists of reasons

    • bad framing by Liberals

    • effective framing by conservatives

  • Liberals us out dated view of reason - reason is

    • conscious

    • unemotional - emotions get in the way of reason -

    • fits the world

    • universal

    • complete

    • symbolic -

    • logical

    • disembodied - not physical

    • serves self interest

    • language is neutral

  • Theory implications

    • Everyone is aware of what they believe and how they think

    • tell people the facts  and they will come to the right conclusions

    • political communication is educating about your self interests

    • everyone reasons the same way

    • morality is rational and universal

    • emotions get in the way of reason

    • we have all the ideas we need

    • language is neutral

  • New account of reason

    • thought is physical

    • 98% is unconscious

    • rationality is unconscious

    • rationality - reason requires emotion

    • reason is embodied.

    • same brain circuitry is used for imagination and doing

      • doing  (kicking)

      • imagining    (kicking)

      • dreaming    (kicking)

      • hear language - symbols  (kicking)

      • seeing it happen, mirror neurons (kicking)

    • mirror neurons circuits form the basis of empathy, which is physical and
      the basis for much of rational thought.  Empathy is psychical

      • canonical neurons

      • reason is also about connection to others.

  • We think in

    • cogs - events, space, entities, predicates

    • frames -  roles,  relations scenarios

    • metaphors -  frame to frame mappings

    • narratives - frame sequences with linked emotions

    • simulations -  goals, satisfaction, frustration

  • All words are defined in frames

  • Hypo cognitions - lacking the ideas we need -

    • No concept of grief in Tahiti

  • All politics is moral

  • Conservative versus Liberal view of politics

    • there's a logic that if empathy is not total we need to get rid of it

  • Moderates - How can have both worldview - Mutual inhibition.

  • Occupy movement -

  • etc.

  • need to create language and stories and talk about it over and over again.

  • hypo cognition - need to create the language

  • direct causation and systemic causation (systemic needs to be learned)

(we need to create a philosophy, world view, stories, etc. all based on the foundation and premise of fostering more  empathy. Creating an empathy based system).

 

Articles by George Lakoff

2009-04-26 - George Lakoff - Torture, Empathy, and Democracy  **
    firedoglake

President Obama's second intellectual move concerns what the fundamental American values are. In Moral Politics, I described what I found to be the implicit, often unconscious, value systems behind progressive and conservative thought. Progressive thought rests, first, on the value of empathy--putting oneself in other people's shoes, seeing the world through their eyes, and therefore caring about them. The second principle is acting on that care, taking responsibility both for oneself and others, social as well as individual responsibility. The third is acting to make oneself, the country, and the world better--what Obama has called an "ethic of excellence" toward creating "a more perfect union" politically.

Historian Lynn Hunt, in Inventing Human Rights, has shown that those values, beginning with empathy, lie historically behind the human rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Obama, in various interviews and speeches, has provided the logical link. Empathy is not mere sympathy. Putting oneself in the shoes of others brings with it the responsibility to act on that empathy--to be "our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper"--and to act to improve ourselves, our country, and the world.

The logic is simple: Empathy is why we have the values of freedom, fairness, and equality -- for everyone, not just for certain individuals. If we put ourselves in the shoes of others, we will want them to be free and treated fairly. Empathy with all leads to equality: no one should be treated worse than anyone else. Empathy leads us to democracy: to avoid being subject indefinitely to the whims of an oppressive and unfair ruler, we need to be able to choose who governs us and we need a government of laws.

Obama has consistently maintained that what I, in my writings, have called "progressive" values are fundamental American values. From his perspective, he is not a progressive; he is just an American. That is a crucial intellectual move.

 2009-05-30 -  Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy
    truthout.org

The Sotomayor nomination has given radical conservatives new life. They have launched an attack that is nominally aimed at Judge Sotomayor. But it is really a coordinated stealth attack -- on President Obama's central vision, on progressive thought itself, and on Republicans who might stray from the conservative hard line.

There are several fronts: Empathy, feelings, racism, activist judges. Each one has a hidden dimension. And if progressives think conservative attacks are just about Sotomayor, they may wind up helping conservatives regroup.    


2010-01-25 - Where's The Movement?Freedom vs. the Public Option
   truthout.org

If you live in California (one out of eight Americans does), then join the California Democracy Movement. If you live elsewhere, form your own democracy movement and unite with us. The principles are simple, and they are Obama's: Democracy is about empathy - caring about your fellow citizens, which leads to the principles of freedom and fairness for all. Empathy requires both personal and social responsibility. The ethic of excellence means making the world better by making yourself better, your family better, your community better, and your nation better. Government has two moral missions: protection and empowerment for all. To carry them out, government must be by, for, and of the people.

 

 

 

2012-11-03 - George Lakoff: How to Win Over Swing Voters 

 

 

 

Global Economic Symposium (GES) 2013 - interview with George Lakoff
Interview with George Lakoff, Professor of Linguistics, University of California - Berkeley, USA, interviewed by Laura Carolina Baer, Architect, Switzerland.
 

 

2014-01-27  - SOTU 2014: The Cognitive Power of the President
"Beyond material power, the president has even greater power -- cognitive power -- and he hasn't used it much. Cognitive power is the power to put important ideas in people's minds by shaping public discourse. He has the unique power to change how America thinks simply by discussing crucial ideas over and over.

 

American democracy is based on empathy -- citizens caring about other citizens and working through their government to provide public resources for all, making both decent lives and flourishing markets possible. He used to speak of empathy as "the most important thing my mother taught me." But he was misinterpreted by conservatives and dropped this most central idea. He started talking, as Elisabeth Warren has so eloquently, about the crucial nature of public resources, but he messed up once ("You didn't build it") and stopped. He needs to take up that theme, get it right, and repeat it in every speech."