post emotional bonds of society

May 13th, 2008

Filed under: CHAMELEON PROJECT — Tina @ 5:52 pm





Study of the Political Thought of L. von Mises, K. Popper, F.A. Hayek and M. Polanyi, 
with an Appendix on A. Kolnai

(Excerpts) Chapter 14

The Emotional Bonds of Society


L. von Mises, K. Popper, F.A. Hayek and M. Polanyi, 
with an Appendix on A. Kolnai

1. Emotional Unity and the Levels of Sympathy

1. Emotional infection, in which B’s experience of the signs of an emotion or mood in A cause B to `catch’ that emotion or mood, but without knowing, in the case of an emotion, what it is directed to. In a herd of animals, one animal is alarmed at something. The others, seeing, hearing or perhaps smelling the signs of its alarm, themselves become alarmed. In the same way panic or hysteria sweeps through a crowd. People go to parties in order to become infected by the jovial atmosphere.

2. Emotional identification, a heightened form of emotional infection in which the other’s emotions are taken as one’s own. This is the attraction of spectator sports and of the vicarious wish-fulfilment offered by popular fiction and drama. In them one experiences, but at second-hand and safely, the efforts, triumphs and defeats of the protagonists. One feels the impact of a blow as the boxer reels from a punch, the satisfaction of a well-timed stroke as the batsman drives the ball effortlessly to the boundary, the heart-break of the heroine when her lover betrays her. Emotional identification can result in emotional parasitism, either as living off the emotions of another (usually someone weaker and impressionable who can thus be used by the emotionally hungry person) in order to fill the emotional void in one’s own life, or as identifying oneself so completely with the other that one has no emotions, nor thoughts nor will, of one’s own but becomes a conduit for his.

3. Community of feeling, in which A and B experience the same emotion towards the same object, as when two persons grieve over the death of the same friend.

4. Fellow-feeling or sympathy proper, in which A shares in B’s emotion towards C. Two parents standing by the grave of their child not only experience the same emotion of grief, but each is aware of and shares in the other’s grief. Sympathy presupposes the ability to visualise the other’s emotion. But, Scheler points out, that is not enough, for so also does cruelty. The cruel person needs to know that the other is suffering in order to enjoy, to cause or to intensify his suffering. The merely callous person is oblivious to what the other feels.

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