When little babies are in a nursery and one baby cries the other babies will cry in respons they just do not know why.
Around two and a half years of age you begin to recognise yourself in a mirror, that is when you begin to mature empathy as a cultural phenomena.
Once you can identify yourelf, you know that if you are observing someone else have a feeling, that if you feel something it is because you are feeling it because someone else has it. You are two separate things.
Selfhood goes together with empathic development, increasing selfhood goes together with increasing empathic development.
Around eight years of age you learn about birth and death. You learn where you came from, that you have a one and only life, your life is fragile and vulnerable and one day you are going to die. Thati s the beginning of an existential trip.
Because when you learn about birth and death and you have a one and only life you realise how fragile and vulnerable life is. It is very tough being alive on this planet whether you are a Human being or a fox in the forest.
So when you learn that life is vulnerable and fragile, and every moment is precious, and that you have your own unique history it allows you then to experience another’s plight in the same way – that other person or other being, has a one and only life, it is tough to be alive, and the odds are not always good.
So if you think about the times that you have empathised with another being, it is always because you felt their struggle, you had the depth and empathy and the celebration of live. And you show solidarity with your compassion.
Empathy is the opposite of utopia. There is no empathy in heaven. There is not any empathy in heaven because there is no mortality.
There is no empathy in Utopia because there is no suffering. Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgement of death and the celebration of life and routing for each other to flourish and be. It is based on our frailties and our imperfections.
So when we talk about building an empathic civilisation we are not talking about Utopia, we are talking about the ability of Human beings to show solidarity not only with each other but our fellow creatures who have a one and only life on this little planet.
We are homo-empathicus.
Empathy is the invisible hand. Empathy is what allows us to stretch our sensibility with another so that we can cohere in larger social units. To empathise is to civilise; to civilise is to empathise.