Wednesday, July 12, 2006

empathy and personal identity.

According to my idea of personal identity I am a metaphysically unique substance that is simple and therefore indefinable. It might be the case that I must be human to be me; that is to say I must be instantiated into the nature of a natural kind (e.g. humanity) for me to exist (and hence ‘be me’). But since the natural kind ‘human’ is actually nothing more than a certain list of attributes-capacities which all humans have in common qua their nature, all human capacities that humans have are possibly true of any human whosoever, including me.

Hence there is a possible world where I have everything true of you and you have everything true of me. Since all attributes human are types of properties, they are universals in the standard sense too. I happen to think Universals are eternal forms in the very mind of God, and they can be contingently instanced in worlds where God so chooses that they exist. Since we’re created in the image of God we too are like God in that we have a mind which has an innate grasp of the forms God so pressed upon our minds (in His likeness). Anytime we use our imagination we are accessing possibilities yet to be created; we perceive with our mind’s eye one form or another and juxtapose it with another and hence creativity and the necessary conditions for deliberation and therefore action too; in fact, human action in the deepest and most meaningful sense is hardly distinguishable from creativity, but a much more severe creativity indeed. When we act we don’t arrange things external to ourselves like when a painter paints a tree; when we act we’re in effect arranging ourselves to be this or that sort of way; a true causa sui, nothing less.

But back to empathy: When someone close to or us (or sometimes a complete stranger) is telling us their troubles (or joys) we bring before our Cartesian Theatre a possible world where what is true of them is actually true of us, in which case we see their world from our point of view. Done in the right spirit we will also feel what they feel just as if it were happening to us, and this is what would move us to care as deeply as we sometimes can...

Such is the beauty God made man, and how much I want live in light of these things.
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