Associate Professor of Anthropology at the
University of Northern Colorado. In his video Recovering Empathy, he
explored the relationship of empathy and the antithesis of antipathy and
apathy. Antipathy is wanting to shut down a threat and fear which are
often caused by unfamiliarity, differences,
ignorance, inexperience and
irrelevance. Apathy is shutting down when we feel powerless.
Metaphorically speaking, empathy empowers construction
of a stone arch bridge of interpersonal communication; apathy is the gap
between the sides; antipathy is tensional stress, i.e., underlying
forces trying to pull the connection apart. The Stone arch bridge, like
human survival strategies, has an ancient heritage. The metaphorical
bridge is made of individual stones – moments of shared experience;
outreach efforts; courage to allow oneself to be vulnerable, etc.
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fear 'the other' and want to remove the threat.
unfamiliarity (v. familiarity)
differences (v. similarity)
ignorance (v. education)
inexperience - (v. experiences) ideas communing from the
outside, not the way things are done - will be rejected
immune system, kills invader
irrelevance - (v. relevance) experience not relevant to
encourage bonds with others -
when we feel
powerless we shut down
Antipathy and apathy are anti community emotions
empathy is determined by ability to help
create familiarity and similarity with
the persons context - can recover empathy
universities can help nurture empathy and create civic agency
empathy and civic agency
ethnographers - gather stories
other countries via internet.
visual voices project
can and must recover empathy
Lecture challenges recovery of empathy
By Stephanie South
Michael Kimball, the 2007-2008 Robert O. Shulze Chair, began his lecture
with a short documentary that challenged students to begin asking
themselves what community means to them and finding out what it means to
other people. He spoke about recovering empathy in our communities and
solving problems as a result. "Empathy grows community," Kimball
said. "Empathy is recovered through service learning and civil
How can we build a culture of empathy/compassion, i.e.,
raise the level of empathy in society?
sapiens is a eusocial species.
Empathy is part of a rich and varied cultural and biological survival
strategy, which also includes altruism, competition, deception,
flexible alliances, and conflict. In a globalized world with high
population densities, deception and conflict are increasingly
perilous, anti-survival strategies.
members containing multiple generations and prone to perform
altruistic acts as part of their division of labor” (E. O. Wilson,
The Social Conquest of Earth, Liveright Publishing
Corporation, 2012, p. 16).
Metaphorically speaking, empathy empowers construction of a stone
arch bridge of interpersonal communication; apathy is the gap between the
sides; antipathy is tensional stress, i.e., underlying forces
trying to pull the connection apart.
The stone arch
bridge, like human survival strategies, has an ancient heritage. The
metaphorical bridge is made of individual stones – moments of shared
experience; outreach efforts; courage to allow oneself to be
this bridge, empathy has no outlet and can dissipate.
Empathy can grow
from reading books, watching documentaries, hearing personal
stories, etc., but without interpersonal communication it cannot
Construction must be reciprocal. The bridge must be built from
both sides and meet somewhere in the middle.
One-sided bridge building can only go so far.
is ultimately ineffectual and sometimes even dangerous.
5.Trust is the
bridge’s keystone, the final stone in the center that keeps all the
others in place and allows the bridge to bear loads.
The keystone is the
difference between strong and weak social ties. Strong ties
represent a conglomeration of empathy and trust. Weak ties foster
networks, but aren’t sufficient to promote risk-taking.
the keystone, the bridge can collapse from too much compressional
stress increases with the intensity of interaction – negotiation,
compromise, vulnerability, curiosity, etc.
purpose of a bridge is to foster commerce.
defined, includes exchange of information, realization of
interdependency, adaptive survival strategies.
bridge supports but cannot drive commerce.
Once the bridge is built, the real work begins.
In a recent opinion
New York Times columnist David Brooks mistakenly argues that empathy
is merely a “sideshow”; nevertheless, he is correct that empathy is
fragile and not sufficient to foster peace and justice.
requires interpersonal communication, strong and weak social ties, and
ethical codes. To varying degrees, each of these requires empathy to
establish and maintain it.
Brooks talks about
the preeminence of “sacred codes,” but he fails to acknowledge the
relativity of these codes – that one side’s sacred code might be
another’s nightmare; that empathy and compassion are not requisite
components of a sacred code. He also does not consider the role of
strong tie relations in motivating action, nor does he acknowledge
empathy’s role in reinforcing these ties.
globalized world, compassionate commerce is key to our survival
as a species and the sustainability of our societies and habitats.
commerce means social interactions and exchange rooted in shared
empathetic experience. It does not preclude competition at the
individual or group level