Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Advantage vs Empathy (2)

Last Monday, a friend called me and explained her silence. She has an eye thrombosis and is being treated for that by oxygen injections in her eye. I almost felt the needle entering my own eye, and was eager to change the subject. The ability for understanding the feelings of others is called the Theory of Mind, and is closely related to empathy.

A 2019 study on rats revealed that feelings of empathy are related to self-interest. Trouw: “Humans are quite capable of empathising with the suffering of others. That’s why we help each other. However, the origin of empathy is self- interest. When you notice someone suffering with pain, you know: stay away.” Note: Dutch to English translation by LO.

Early July 2017, I published my blog Advantage vs Empathy in which I concluded:

“Empathy is not necessarily a moral value as empathy may never be entirely selfless. Empathy could still be rooted in achieving (delayed/future) advantage (eg, You Owe Me / I Owe You). Our relentless efforts in gaining advantage (eg, Knowledge, Power), might be what really separates humans from anything else on this planet.”

The abovementioned 2019 study on rats appears to confirm my 2017 conclusion.

This issue of self-interest explains my interest in understanding human intentions as these translate in human deeds and words. In order to understand intentions, you must ask the Why question. Often asking once is not enough. After 4-5 times asking Why, the reluctance for telling the truth may (start to) crumble because it’s clear that disbelief will continue. However, intentions are usually well-hidden. A true answer may not reveal true intentions.

Human intentions are driven by self-interest, in particular by gaining advantage. Charity is not an exception. Usually, we only give things away that we no longer need, want or believe in (my blogs). Moreover, giving things away relieves us from a disposal effort. Finally, giving things away to a person who is happy receiving these goods, makes us feel happy as well.

In the 2005 movie Constantine, Keanu Reeves “seeks salvation from eternal damnation in Hell for a suicide attempt in his youth”. Our doing well by doing good may have a similar intention: correcting past mistakes and obtaining salvation from our Supreme Being (eg, Ahura Mazda, Allah, God, Shiva, Yahweh).

Hence, everything we do is for gaining advantage, including (not) expressing empathy. This might be the reason why we love animals so much (eg, birds, cats, dogs, horses).

everything i wanted (2019) by Billie Eilish

artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

I had a dream 

I got everything I wanted 

Not what you’d think 

And if I’m bein’ honest 

It might’ve been a nightmare 

To anyone who might care 

Thought I could fly (Fly) 

So I stepped off the Golden, mm 

Nobody cried (Cried, cried, cried, cried) 

Nobody even noticed 

I saw them standing right there 

Kinda thought they might care (Might care, might care)

Note: all markings (bolditalicunderlining) by LO unless stated otherwise


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