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 ToK Question #2

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Registration date : 2006-10-24

PostSubject: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 8:03 am

Can empathy be taught? Can passion for a cause be taught?
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msit23



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 8:57 am

Hey I'm Melissa and I go to Branksome.
To answer the question, I think that empathy can't really be taught, but it can be fostered through experience. For me, empathy means more than sympathizing - its like sharing a common feeling with what the person is going through because you have been there before.

On the other hand, I think that passion for a cause is perhaps easier to be fostered than empathy because when we talk about a cause, and if we have media like movies and pictures to support this cause, giving people a visual sense of the cause will greatly help to foster passion. For example, I think everyone feels passion for a certain cause (something we discussed in tok) like... the environment. However, over exposure to media dealing with this cause can also stimulate passion, as well as perhaps empathy because we can all, in a sense, have passion for the environmentalist cause because we are all experiencing it as we speak.
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georgianowers



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 8:57 am

HELLOOO
This is Georgia from Branksome.

Regarding the question...to an extent, yes, empathy can be taught.
I just recently spent two weeks working at a school in Queenstown, South Africa. My empathy for the kids at the school and the people in South Africa, particularly this area, is beyond what I expected. However, I was willing to go, and I wanted to learn about and see the social issues that South Africans face. Empathy can be taught...but only to those who are willing to be empathic.
There will always be the cynical ones who don't really seem to have empathy for a certain cause. I made a comment in class on Tuesday about how everyone has their "thing"...the one thing that they are truly passionate about. I may not be truly concerned with the environment...but the experience I had in Africa has made the suffering of South Africans one of my major concerns and I am now much more occupied with studying it and learning about it.
A willing learner and experience can help empathy or passion for a cause to be taught. But there will always be exceptions.
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sjia



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PostSubject: Can empathy be taught? Can passion for a cause be taught?   Thu May 03, 2007 9:03 am

I think empathy cannot be taught. By saying that, the definition of empathy is 'the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. ' Therefore, empathy is more related to a moral level where we have to be compassionate toward the afflictions of others. Empathy differs from one person to the next based on various personal values.
On the other hand, I think something related to humanity can be taught in school because that is the basic for studying humanity. For empathy or compassion, it can only be interpreted through one's own understanding and experiences. Passion can be stimulated, but not taught. It's hard for one to simply say, 'today, my teacher taught me how to be passionate toward art' while not taking any actions to show one's passion. That person is taught about "passion", but that passion is through the teacher's interpretation not his.
To conclude, empathy and passion can be taught for theories, but for them to actually work, we need to perceive them on our own.
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jwang



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PostSubject: Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:08 am

Hello I'm Jenny W and I go to Branksome Hall.
To answer the question, we should first define what empathy is.
Empathy, occurding to Wikipedia....is defined as one's ability to recognize, percieve and directly experientially feel the emotion of another. From this definition, I think empathy can be taught, in a form of personal experience or even through media. For empathy to generated, it is necessary for ones to have general knowledge on the particular issues. Either personal experiences or even reading through articles, watching documentary could educate us the situation. From these we could generated our empathy.
From the same believe, i think passion can be taught as well.
This is why we usually have to learn what exactly happened in the past (ie. studying history) inorder to prevent from making the same mistake again. From the understanding of the event, we could easly generated our empathy and passion.
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nickyp



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:10 am

Hollaaa
Nicky from Branksome.
I don't think empathy can be taught but it is certainly something that can be influenced. empathy: the ability to understand another person’s feelings, experience, etc. is not something you can be taught to do if inside you aren't going to feel the way you should be. In order to undestand someone elses feelings or expericences, you have to have had similar experiences or have a feeling inside you that wants to relate with that person. Teaching someone how to do that is not possible. Teaching is to give a lesson of some sort that gets stored in the brain, and there is no lesson being taught with empathy, it is simply a feeling.
Passion for a cause is similar, that it can be influenced but not taught. Trying to teach someone to have passion for a cause would almost be like forcing them and if they are being forced, they would most likely not put everything they had into it. Someone who naturally on there own (whether they were influenced or not) has passion for a cause is likely to put more effort into what they are doing, and really care for/about what they are doing.
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torisopik



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:10 am

Hi, My name is Tori, and I also go to Branksome. I agree with what Georgia said, that empathy can most definitly can be taught, but only if the person is willing. Last TOK class, Georgia also made the comment that everything has their "thing", what they are most empathetic towards, and what they put the most time and effort into. This comment got me thinking as to what my "thing" was, and it was troubling because I realized that I do not have a "thing". I think that just because I am not significantly empathetic towards one issue, doesn't mean that I am not empathetic. I think that I have the same amount of empathy towards the environment as I would towards those living in poverty. This empathy has become somewhat natural for me, but I must also credit this to my parents, and my upbringing who have TAUGHT me how to be empathetic, and to put myself in the position of others.
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georgianowers



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:11 am

you all know what I think already
but to an extent I do have to agree with sophie
passion for a cause can be introduced but it does have to be self-inflicted. i can tell you about south africa for days...weeks even...but you are the one who's going to feel passion for it. and that is something that you must develop and I can only encourage and educate you about.
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msit23



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:17 am

thats true tori... bc i dont think i have a 'thing' to be particularly passionate about it either., but i also think that with greater exposure to particular media elements, like movies such as 'an inconvenient truth' can make us more passionate towards certain causes (sorry for all the envt examples.. )
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juliamartineau01



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:20 am

Hi, I'm Julia - I'm in Grade 11 at Branksome Hall.

I believe that empathy can be taught to an extent. Empathy with others is a natural instinct, but when one is taught about situations that are problematic in various parts of the world, our natural sense of empathy increases.

For example, I had always known about the Holocaust and the repercussions it had on the world, but I didn't REALLY understand it until Grade 9 when we went into depth learning about it. We watched videos and discussed how it had happened, and I realized how truly horrific it had been. I honestly felt sick thinking about it. Looking back now, I have realized that this means I was taught to empathize with people and what they went through. Sure, I naturally had felt empathy before when I first heard about it, but when I actually learned about it, my natural sense of empathy increased greatly.

I now take HL European History, and our most recent unit has covered the Weimar Republic and Hitler and the Nazis. Learning about the Holocaust again has lead me to empathize, and as cheesy as this may sound, I really think that learning about events such as this is important for students. It allows our natural sense of empathy to increase as we are literally taught to empathize with others.
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iriscm



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:22 am

Passion for a cause can be taught, but only by giving information that appeals to emotions that are already there. All of those TV infomercials for foster parents plan etc. teach passion for a cause. The job of the people from Free the Children and Warchild (like the ones that came to our Geneva Park retreat), their entire job is teaching passion for a cause. They do this by using images, stories and statistics that they know will appeal to our senses of empathy and sympathy. By stirring these emotions and then presenting a medium in which to act upon them (their organizations) they are creating passion for a cause that otherwise we most likely would not have.

It is more difficult to teach empathy. Empathy for a specific thing can be taught, but only if the person already has those morals that would stir the empathy.
Ex. A drug addict on the street. You will not be able to teach a person to feel empathy for them if they have the belief that the drug addict is a “lowlife” who brought this problem upon themselves. No matter how you try, you will not be able to make the person feel empathy. Perhaps they might feel sympathy for them, as they can recognize the difficult life they have to lead, but they cannot empathize with them. This is because to empathize you have to put yourself in their place, and if a person feels with certainty that they would never be “stupid” enough to turn themselves into a drug addict, you could not get them to put themselves in the drug addict’s place, a thing necessary to empathize with them.
For this reason I don’t think that you can teach empathy in general, except from a very young age, because once your morals are formed, it is nearly impossible to change them.

-iris afro
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iriscm



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:23 am

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msit23



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:23 am

yeah i agree with julia to some extent but i feel that when you're talking about "empathy with others is a natural instinct" i am more inclined to think you are talking about sympathy - empathy in general requires some sort of indepth emotional connection or personal experience, whereas i feel that SYMPATHY is the more natural instinct
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jwang



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:26 am

Response to Sophie's idea!!!!!

I agree with Sophie to some extent. The theory of empathy and passion could be taught but it is only the personal experiences that could actually generated the feelings. Different people are very different in the level of empathy and passion the generated. Some might not have the exactly same experiences but might have similar experiences that linked them to generated their feelings.
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georgianowers



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:26 am

morals are something that you grow up to have
but i think that they can be changed through experience. i know that through experience my morals have changed and i've begun to appreciate things in different ways and at different levels.
i think that as you grow up your morals change and your priorities will change
HOWEVER i dont think that morals can be taught..they are developed through experience

but i dont think that empathy is completely based on morals...they CAN be interrelated but they are not dependent of eachother, or one on another

like i said, empathy can be developed through experience but morals MAY affect whether or not this empathy is developed
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cherie



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PostSubject: ToK question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:29 am

HIIII guys!!!!
This is Cherie from Branksome.

Well, I personally don't think that empathy can be taught. The feeling of empathy will come from our experiences (as Melissa said). From our personal experience on something, then we would be able to make connections and feel empathy. The feeling will just come naturally because we would have experienced and seen the situation in real life and would be able to put ourself into their perspective. Without experiencing the problem, it is very hard for us to have empathy on the thing. No matter how much the people around us talk about it, we would still be unble to feel empathy for them. On the other hand, we might only feel sympathy for that person.

Passion for a cause, on the other hand, might be able to be taught. Passion is something where a person has a strong emotion or feeling towards it. At times, our passion can be created by things that are happening around us daily. If we were exposed to the same thing everyday, then it would be quite easy for that to become one of our passions.

Passions are something that could be changed due to our emotions on it. However, empathy is something that is very natural. You either have it or you don't.
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Chumphrey



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PostSubject: Courtney and Lauren   Thu May 03, 2007 9:30 am

in response to Melissa I think empathy requires a personal connection to the situation, and even if it is a rather superficial connection such as watching a video made about a genocide somewhere far away, putting a face on an event makes all the facts you hear somehow very real, and I think that is empathy over sympathy.

I (Lauren) think:

I agree with Courtney I think that empathy does require a personal connection. However, I think that it can depend on the type of videos that establish the connection.
-Lauren
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nickyp



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:34 am

Morals are a good way of thinking about empathy. Morals are concerned with principles of right and wrong behaviour and through your experience you are able to learn what these right and wrong things are. To empathize with someone you have to be able to relate with them and like Georgia said, these morals can affect the development of this empathy
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ashgef



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:35 am

I believe that empathy cannot be taught. I find that people are either naturally able to empathize or they are not. And even for those who are, they cannot truly empathize until they have experienced the thing they are trying to empathize with themselves. I also believe that a passion cannot be taught. Usually if you can empathize with something you will become passionate about it because you know how it feels and you want no one to ever have to feel that way. As Georgia said last class, she truly empathizes with underprivileged children living in South Africa because she went to a school there over the break and she has a passion for that cause. But for us who did not go, it's a lot harder to understand what it is like and therefore empathize and therefore it would probably not become one of our passions. I myself have experienced the loss of someone close to me due to cancer, so I can empathize with someone else who has someone close to them dying of cancer. I have some friends whose fathers died quite suddenly. I can sympathize with them, but I cannot truly empathize with them because I have no idea what it is like to lose a parent.

PS: Sorry for kind of rambling. *lol*
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torisopik



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:39 am

Just going back to what Julia said...
I completly understand. I am in the same situation, I always knew what the Holocaust was, but until I learned about it in great detail in History classes, I never truly understood. Being able to watch videos, and read primary documents, allowed me to further empathize with the Holocaust victims. This empathy has made me more interested in the Holocaust, and I find myself taking every oppertunity to learn more about it. Next week, I will be attending the Holocaust conference, which I feel will open my eyes even more.
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mkim



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:39 am

Can empathy be taught? Can passion for a cause be taught?

I also think empathy can be taught to some extent. When we learn about the events that cause people in the other parts of the world to suffer and die, we can definitely feel empathy towards them. Although, we might not have personal experiences related to the events, we can still understand how the people who are suffering would feel. When we are taught about these events, some people who are more passionate about the issues would feel empathy while the others would just accept the given facts. So, i think empahty and passion for a cause can be taught to some who are willing to learn and take actions about the events.


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ashgef



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:39 am

msit23 wrote:
Hey I'm Melissa and I go to Branksome.
To answer the question, I think that empathy can't really be taught, but it can be fostered through experience. For me, empathy means more than sympathizing - its like sharing a common feeling with what the person is going through because you have been there before.

On the other hand, I think that passion for a cause is perhaps easier to be fostered than empathy because when we talk about a cause, and if we have media like movies and pictures to support this cause, giving people a visual sense of the cause will greatly help to foster passion. For example, I think everyone feels passion for a certain cause (something we discussed in tok) like... the environment. However, over exposure to media dealing with this cause can also stimulate passion, as well as perhaps empathy because we can all, in a sense, have passion for the environmentalist cause because we are all experiencing it as we speak.

I agree with Melissa except I do not really think that the media works that well for fostering passions. Although that is usually the hope of the person who made the movie/video, I do not believe they are that effective. When I see them I'm concerned for a couple days maybe, then I can't help but just move on, usually because I feel that there isn't much I myself can do as a person to help international issues.
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andrea



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:40 am

hi everyone

i agree with nicky and dont think empathy can be taught. true empathy can onli be caused by personal experiences. i dont think its possible to empathize with someone or with a situation unless you have experienced it urself. in response to georgia, the way i see it is that she truly empathizes with the South africa kids because she has gone to their school and found out exactly what kind of hardships and difficulties the kids are experiencing. true empathy cannot be taught in a classroom.

this is my 2nd year in toronto as an international student. before i came to toronto i had always thought that its easy and cool to study aboard. no parents will call u every 2 hours to check on u, no one cares if you go out 24/7. however, throughout the past two years i have experienced and seen a lot of other international students in and outside of school having difficulties to start a new life in this strange city. its never easy to leave home and ur family and friends. emapthy is to understand someone's feelings or experience in a certain situation. what i came to realise is that its impossible for anyone to understand or even worse comment on how it is to be like to go to an entirely different country with different culture, different language and different people without going through it urself. thus, i believe that true empathy cannot never taught.
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ashgef



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:41 am

mkim wrote:
Can empathy be taught? Can passion for a cause be taught?

I also think empathy can be taught to some extent. When we learn about the events that cause people in the other parts of the world to suffer and die, we can definitely feel empathy towards them. Although, we might not have personal experiences related to the events, we can still understand how the people who are suffering would feel. When we are taught about these events, some people who are more passionate about the issues would feel empathy while the others would just learn about the given facts. So, i think empahty and passion for a cause can be taught to some who are willing to learn and take actions about the events.

I believe that when we learn of events, we feel sympathy for those people, but not empathy. I feel that unless you yourself know what it is like to be in their shoes, it is very hard to empathize.
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cherie



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PostSubject: Re: ToK Question #2   Thu May 03, 2007 9:46 am

To some extent, I kind of agree to Georgia how empathy can be taught. I suppose there will always be exceptions to things in life!
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