Saturday, March 27, 2010

Does the Enlightenment view of man doom us? What about our "mirror neurons" and empathy?

AlterNet offered a piece this morning by Jeremy Rifkin, one which questions the meaning of our global communications (and mash-ups and self-promotion) through technology, while denying that we are “social animals” with “mirror neurons” that enable empathy with others. The link is here and the title is startling. It is “Are We Selfish Individuals or an Empathic Society? The Answer Could Determine Whether We Have a Future: The industrial age built on and propelled by fossil fuels is coming to an end. What replaces it is at the center of our fight for survival.”

The piece attacks the notion of mediated individualism that developed with the Enlightenment. The author writes “If human nature is as the Enlightenment philosophers claimed, then we are likely doomed. It is impossible to imagine how we might create a sustainable global economy and restore the biosphere to health if each and every one of us is, at the core of our biology, an autonomous agent and a self-centered and materialistic being.”.

The far Left and the far Right come together on this one. Is this a call for Carlson’s “natural family”? Or does the Family just become the granularity of “selfishness”?

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