Is Empathy Killing Us?

Many of us have not heard of The Russel Conjugation, which turns out to be an assessment of how emotion — including empathy — over-rides our logical thinking process, leading us to favor bad options because they have greater effect on our persons:

As the theory goes, it is not that we don’t have our own opinions so much as that we have too many contradictory ones, and it is generally our emotional state alone which determines on which ones we will predicate action or inaction.

Russell Conjugation (or “emotive conjugation”) is a presently obscure construction from linguistics, psychology and rhetoric which demonstrates how our rational minds are shielded from understanding the junior role factual information generally plays relative to empathy in our formation of opinions.

…The basic principle of Russell Conjugation is that the human mind is constantly looking ahead well beyond what is true or false to ask “What is the social consequence of accepting the facts as they are?” While this line of thinking is obviously self-serving, we are descended from social creatures who could not safely form opinions around pure facts so much as around how those facts are presented to us by those we ape, trust or fear.

The human mind rewards whatever stimulus is most intense, and for most of us, social fears and opportunities are more real than the cold, “dry” logical calculations required to make complex decisions. In groups, this is intensified by a need to feel membership in the group, since inclusion is binary and so one is either in the good graces of the group, or an enemy.

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