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Thread: Empathy is a neutral trait right?

  1. #1 Empathy is a neutral trait right? 
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. One may need to have a certain amount of empathy before being able to experience accurate sympathy orcompassion.

    the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
    Source: Empathy | Define Empathy at

    Im slightly confused about empathy always being considered a benign trait. I always consider it neutral, and the dictionary seems to claim the same.

    Example: A psychopath or sociopath may have a very high empathy, but simply dont care about the other people's welfare and rather use empathy to be even better at manipulating people.


    A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it. - David Stevens
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  3. #2  
    Moderator Moderator
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    city of wine and roses
    Spot on.

    I used to refer to it as salesman's empathy. Just enough insight into other people to work out how best to get them to do what you want them to do. But don't put yourself out to actually empathise with the position other people might find themselves in.

    But don't take it too far. Sometimes that "insight" of a psychopath is completely off base. These are the sorts of people who think that everyone else thinks or feels the same way they do, they're just not prepared to act on those thoughts and feelings. So the rest of the world are hypocrites for criminalising or even criticising their actions.

    This is a common failing - we can all mistakenly presume that other people think the same way we do unless we take care to really think things through.

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  4. #3  
    Time Lord
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    I started a similar thread, asking if "empathy" or "sympathy" simply equal "care". Because I'd like a word for the ...intuitive theory of mind... employed by snake-charmers, stalking cats, wary birds, PvP gamers. I concluded that empathy and sympathy are to be used only for humans, suggest care, and authorities struggle with the definitions - contradicting each other or even themselves. We're muddled. A discussion about these words inevitably conjures nurses for illustration. I think most people learn the terms from trite examples.

    Empathy should mean getting into the pathos. Sympathy should mean having the same pathos. But if we can't use them so broadly, then "theory of mind" or (nice one) "salesman's empathy" will have to do.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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