[B]y outrospection I mean the idea of discovering who you are and what to do with your life by stepping outside yourself, discovering the lives of other people, other civilisations. And the ultimate art form for the age of outrospection is empathy… Empathy isn’t just something that that expands your moral universe, empathy is something that can make you a more creative thinker, improve your relationships, can create the human bonds that make life worth living. But more than that empathy is also about social change, radical social change…And I think empathy is the way to revolutionize our own philosophies of life, to become more outrospective, and to create the revolution of human relationships that I think we so desperately need.
In Krznaric’s treatment of the subject, empathy is more than just a “nice, soft, fluffy concept”. It becomes a powerful mechanism for understanding the world around us. It may also inform the idea of physical, affective, and mental feeling as the basis of cognition.
In addition to this reframing of empathy itself, it is interesting how Krznaric discusses empathy in terms of our ability to relate to people in faraway places or in distant generations. This is perhaps another version of “number numbness” or the difficulty humans have with processing large quantities, of say, space and time. The underlying problem is most likely a consequence of the cognitive limitations on what we have perceived, what we have words to describe, and what we can imagine. The interplay of these dimensions affects the quality of the sense of meaning they effect as a conceptual representation. So the idea that experiential activities like “empathy museums” are key in human development is not restricted to empathy, but apply to behavioral change as learning more broadly.
Roman Krznaric (RSA) | Outrospection