miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
[personal profile] miriam_e
Nobody really knows what another person feels inside; you only know for sure what YOU are feeling. We do have empathy though. It lets us build representations of what we think other people are feeling. Note that it doesn't let us actually feel their feelings. It only lets us make models of other people's feelings inside us, which we then feel. Empathy can make big mistakes, however since telepathy doesn't exist it is the only tool we have. It works pretty well, all things considered, but having empathy set too low or too high can result in a strange paradox.

The most insensitive people think they are very sensitive. They are unable to empathise well with other people's feelings so will naturally think their feelings are more real and that other people have shallow lives with less meaningful feelings.

The weird thing is that an overly sensitive person may make the reverse mistake. In their case they will be afflicted with empathising too strongly with everybody else's pain and happiness.

The insensitive person will think that other people don't have strong feelings; the overly sensitive person will be overwhelmed by them.

The perception in both cases is in a sense the reverse of the reality. The insensitive person will think their feelings are stronger than everybody else's; the overly sensitive person may think other people's feelings loom larger. In actual fact nobody can say whose feelings are stronger because nobody can truly feel another person's feelings. The insensitive person wrongly dismisses others' feelings. The overly sensitive person mistakes their internal model of other people's feelings for the actual feelings themselves, but they're not; they're just representations. The overly sensitive person feels genuine anguish at the suffering of another person, but they're not really feeling the other person's actual pain. They're feeling a simulation of the other person's pain.

It hurts me when I accidentally hurt ants, but I know what I feel is not their pain. I'm pretty sure they have some kind of consciousness (I've explained my reasoning for this before) and I'm pretty sure they feel pain and fear and happiness, but I can't be certain of it. What I feel on their behalf is empathy -- my simulation of what it might feel like to be them.


miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)

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