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Does feeling pity count as empathy?

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Does feeling pity count as empathy?

Postby xdisconnectedx » Mon Apr 08, 2019 8:02 pm

I'm back with my lovely questions :D

The last weeks I thought a lot about feeling pity. Even though I feel absolutely no empathy for other human beings I am able to feel pity for someone. It's a derogative feeling. When I feel pity I look at the person I feel pity for from above. In this moment I look down on that person and it feels like the respective person is absolutely weak and pathetic. I can evoke the feeling of pity whenever I want. I just have to think about the persons weaknesses and imagine the person as vulnerable. So: What I wondered about is how you classify pity. Does it count as empathy or is empathy the fundament for feeling pity? Or is it something else and has nothing to do with empathy? What I can say is: For example when I hurt someone emotionally and go into rage mode the only thing that can stop me is feeling pity for the person I'm hurting. That can make me stop. If it has something to do with empathy it's the only little whiff of empathy I can feel. What are your thoughts to this topic? Oh and: It's not like I "feel" something for the person I feel pity for. I feel absolutely nothing for said person. When I talk about pity I mean what I said: it's an absolutely derogative feeling.
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Re: Does feeling pity count as empathy?

Postby vcrpamphlet » Tue Apr 09, 2019 1:56 am

The pity you describe sounds more like an admixture with revulsion.

It might actually be positive though, from your point of view. There's an unconscious identification with the weakness perceived in that person, but, rather than rejecting it outright, there's a dominance assertion: you despise their weakness as you wish to overcome it in yourself; the overcoming is contingent on that particular disposition.

Or you could just be super insecure. Two objects in space are native in isolation; the thought process is entirely your own, your own projection on reality - which is why it's more interesting to reflect on what drove that thinking in the first place.
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Re: Does feeling pity count as empathy?

Postby solemnlysworn » Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:09 pm

I'll use the dualistic model (cognitive/affective empathy) for brevity.

Pity does a couple of things-- One assesses the situation of another person (or living thing), find their situation unfortunate and their strength or ability inadequate to overcome their circumstances, to flourish, etc.

I don't know whether people who 'pity' others actually feel bad for those they pity. If they do, the negative affect at their suffering is surely an empathic response. If not, I don't know if pity is just an ability to see somebody struggling and place them in a power hierarchy as helpless and weak.

To pity, I don't think there needs to be a cognitive, empathic understanding, in that there is no reason to my mind that anybody would need the ability to 'model' the suffering, the suffering's mind, or imagine what they might be experiencing. All one really needs to know to pity is that somebody is in a bad situation and that they seem to be caught in it because of their short stature. Everything you need is more-or-less objectively available through the facts of the circumstance. We don't need a window into the person's mind.

Probably those who have properly developed empathic faculties wouldn't feel pity but something more like compassion or sympathy. I cheat here because I don't explain what those are but I feel like they have less of a 'looking down' lens than pity does. Pity feels dirtied by that judgement of a person's place in the world. Like vcr said, there are clear undertones of disgust or contempt with pity when compared with some alternatives.

-- Tue Apr 09, 2019 5:13 pm --

pity sex is still sex but the general tone of it is that you were seen as unable and so, from a higher position of power, they graciously gave you the opportunity to get sum. I think the feeling of pity generally reinforces this difference in status or power and is what I meant by looking down.
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