[-empyre-] ethology?

Reinhold Görling goerling at phil.hhu.de
Sat Nov 15 08:23:54 EST 2014

Dear Alan,

it’s always problematic to argue that there is a difference between human beings and other species. The longer one looks at it the smaller the difference become. But I think the use of violence is in fact quite different. It is true that violence between animals often has a kind of theatrical or performative element. What decides a fight is not always being strong: to intimidate the rival is crucial. But I doubt that torture can be found between animals: the object of torture is torture, George Orwell wrote this in his Nineteen Eight-Four. The object of torture is not to intimidate the other but to traumatize the victim, to traumatize the victim’s psyche. And the problem seems to be that this is taking place on the basis of a kind of split: a torturer often develops quite an intense relation to the victim and a quite complex knowledge of his psyche. Is this empathy? Probably yes. Empathy is no guaranty against cruelty. It never was. Shakespeare made it already very clear. From Titus Andronicus till Othello: who is more conscious about the singular psyche of the other than    Shakespeare’s cruel heroes?


> Am 14.11.2014 um 20:54 schrieb Alan Sondheim <sondheim at panix.com>:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> I read with great interest, Reinhold's post; he states "All living being is open, in constant exchange with the world, with persons, other species and things around, with what is his Umwelt or his living-world. A newborn is in an extremely intense exchange with his environment. Just read what Daniel Stern 1985 wrote in his ?The Interpersonal World of the Infant? about the vitality affects: Long before there is any experience of an ?I?, there is an intense communication of forms of feeling, of affects taking place. Or to say it in a more philosophical way: The ?I? always comes late, the encounter with the other always already has taken place before the ?I? notices it."
> I then read the news:
> US led strikes hit Islamic State, al-Qaida-linked group in Syria Jerusalem Post - 57 minutes ago WASHINGTON - US-led air strikes hit 10 units of Islamic State fighters in Syria in recent days, as well as militants with the al-Qaida-linked Khorasan Group, US Central Command said in a statement on Friday. Islamic State sets sights on Saudi Arabia BBC News - 20 minutes ago In a 17-minute audio message, purportedly from its elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group sets its sights firmly on Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and the world's largest oil producer and exporter. Militants seize hometown of kidnapped schoolgirls Businessweek - 1 hour ago MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) - Islamic extremists in Nigeria have seized Chibok, forcing thousands of people to flee the town where insurgents kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls in April, a local official said Friday. Student Found Unconscious at WVU Fraternity Dies ABC News - 19 minutes ago A West Virginia University student found unconscious and not breathing at a fraternity house died Friday, a day after the school ordered a halt to all activities at fraternities and sororities, officials said. Capital Wired Male Infanticide -- Male Mammals Kill Rival Babies To Endure Own Offspring Capital Wired - 18 minutes ago When it comes to the animal kingdom, it's the survival of the fittest and his offspring. To endure their own offspring, some mammals kills the babies of the rivals. Bullying Increases Mating Prospects For Male Chimpanzees [STUDY] ValueWalk - 45 minutes ago A 17-year study of chimpanzees in Tanzania reports that bullying may be of benefit to males of the group. More specifically, males that exhibited long-term aggressive behavior towards females, up to and including physical assaults, significantly increased.
> - And I wonder, why isn't sociobiology on the table here? It seems to me that violence is ingrained in being-human; although there are exceptions, most of human history seems bathed in blood. For me, part of the question does involve empathy - how can we so identify with the other, that the torture stops? And almost everything I've read, from Amery through Scarry through the Nuremberg War trial transcripts, presents against this possibility, that in fact torture has its own perverse logic, its own closure. I realize that sociobiology is considered problematic; on the other hand, I don't know how other-species evidence can be overlooked (even sea anenomes have (for us, slow-motion) wars). Comments appreciated here.
> Thanks greatly, Alan
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