Gary Olson: Empathy Imperiled
Just a shout-out this morning for Gary Olson’s book Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture, and the Brain.
Here’s a brief precis of it from The Book Depository (UK):
“The most critical factor explaining the disjuncture between empathy’s revolutionary potential and today’s empathically-impaired society is the interaction between the brain and our dominant political culture. The evolutionary process has given rise to a hard-wired neural system in the primal brain and particularly in the human brain. This book argues that the crucial missing piece in this conversation is the failure to identify and explain the dynamic relationship between an empathy gap and the hegemonic influence of neoliberal capitalism, through the analysis of the college classroom, the neoliberal state, media, film and photo images, marketing of products, militarization, mass culture and government policy. This book will contribute to an empirically grounded dissent from capitalism’s narrative about human nature. Empathy is putting oneself in another’s emotional and cognitive shoes and then acting in a deliberate, appropriate manner. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it requires self-empathy because we’re all products of an empathy-anesthetizing culture. The approach in this book affirms a scientific basis for acting with empathy, and it addresses how this can help inform us to our current political culture and process, and makes it of interest to students and scholars in political science, psychology, and other social sciences.”
So, as you may see, it’s a significant response to the problems of Lasch’s “culture of narcissism” and of egoistic individualism.
And I want to especially note the central theme of the Hermetic principle that I’ve referred to earlier as “empathetic epistemics”, that being “to know the thing, you must become the thing you want to know”. That’s really the principle of the Shaman’s Way, isn’t it? So, Olson’s book is also a significant contribution to articulating The Holistic Philosophy.
That’s the basis for the polymorph and the shape-shifter — the fluidity of consciousness itself. In fact, I’ld say it’s quite impossible to understand the multi-formity of Man as the multi-dimensionality of consciousness without this capacity for empathy. That’s really what it means to “switch perspectives”. That’s another aspect of the “cross of reality”. To fully appreciate what it means to “live from the vital centre” we have to be something of a polymorph and shape-shifter ourselves — poet, philosopher, prophet, and politician in turns. “Empathetic epistemics” is therefore rather central to the fuller understanding of the cross of reality and the integral consciousness.
“Empathy imperiled” really is quite relevant and pertinent to what Jean Gebser referred to as the deficiency of perspectivising consciousness — the “mental-rational consciousness structure now functioning in deficient mode”, which is nihilism; hybris and Nemesis. So, especially for students of Gebser, Gary Olson’s book would appear to be quite essential reading.
Unfortunately, it seems a little pricey.