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Sender: Michael Briand
Subject: Re: Defintions of transpartisan
Date: Sat, Apr 19, 2014
Msg: 100941


Thanks for your thoughts. Here's one for you:

I'm not sure empathy "is something felt rather than done." If for the moment we substitute, say, "understanding" or "comprehension" for "empathy," it becomes clearer, I think, that empathy is a state of mind to be achieved. How we go about achieving empathy is another question. Moreover, "empathy" is usually distinguished from "sympathy," with the latter being a vicariously experienced feeling, the former a state of cognitive understanding.

From the Golden Rule, to Kant's Categorical Imperative, to Buber's call for a "bold swinging into the other which demands the most intense action of my being" (Friedman); to Baier's explication of the moral point of view; to Fisher and Ury's principle, "focus on interests, not on positions;" to Burton's belief that in all disagreements characterized by substantial seriousness and deep-rootedness, human beings seek to satisfy primordial and universal (Maslovian) needs; to Rawls's argument that fairness requires placing ourselves "behind a veil of ignorance," a long tradition of thinking about interpersonal conflict asserts that, in order to treat others as "ends in themselves" and not as means or obstacles to achieving our own aims, empathy or something very like it is a state of mind we must actively seek to achieve.

I'm not sure, then, that "becoming a transpartisan will make you more empathetic." If you become a transpartisan, I would suggest that you have already achieved sufficient empathy to appreciate that there is merit, value, or worth in both the persons with whom you disagree and in their experiences, perspectives, and aspirations. Again, I believe the fundamental question is how we can achieve empathy with others, especially when our own needs (e.g., identity needs) work against our acknowledgement that the conflicting goals and desires of others (to meet their needs) are understandable, and hence not unreasonable.

The strength of the many different practical approaches to dialogue and to conflict resolution is that they have, in various ways and to different degrees, identified and developed strategies and techniques to bring people closer to the mutual comprehension that I believe could be characterized equally as a state of mutual empathy.


Michael Briand Chico, CA

From: Evelyn Messinger Sent: Friday, April 18, 2014 3:30 PM To: TRANSPARTISAN@LISTS.THATAWAY.ORG Subject: Re: [TRANSPARTISAN] Defintions of transpartisan


You make two interesting points. Empathy is crucial to understanding, but may not be "essential" for indentifying as a transpartisan. Empathy is something felt rather than done. Personal stories can generate empathy, but the best way to empathize is to get to know someone different than yourself. So maybe the answer is not that empathy is needed to be a transpartisan, but that becoming a transpartisan will make you more empathetic. That said, it may be essential to growing a Transpartisan movement, as a message with strong appeal to women in particular.

Victimization is really a tough one. It has been in vogue for some years now, but it also has a place in the American psyche: being victimized by the Brits led to a rebellion that created the most advanced democracy the world had ever seen. But we do have our better angels, and just as demagoguery plays on victimization, transpartisanship might highlight the great American values of self-reliance and toughness.



On Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM, Debilyn Molineaux, Living Room Conversations wrote:

This is for the Definitions of Transpartisan thread:

One thing I find in all "transpartisan" conversations is empathy for those with whom we are speaking. I'm wondering if this is an essential ingredient? And if so, how do we develop more empathy in our society?

As transpartisans, we begin conversations (not debate) around the topics...and with empathy we look for and discover solutions that are not possible from a debate, compromise or win/lose perspectives. This breaks down all the labels (even from the quadrant model of Chickering/Turner) and focuses not only on what is valuable to each of us, but to what our desired, shared outcome will be.

For instance, the topic of how big or small government should be could be framed more broadly about how do we envision living our own lives and what is the ideal balance between the needs of individuals, communities and perhaps the planet / environment which sustains us all. What would a government need to be to support the lives we want to lead?

Another component that I am exploring is the ability to move beyond or transcend the attitude of victimization by "the other" on an emotional level. What does it take to realize we are co-creating the society within which we live? How can we stop being victims and start being citizens?

Debilyn Molineaux, Managing Partner Living Room Conversations


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