Empathy's Roots and Social Justice

I recently found this excellent article on empathy and the current human predicament.  I think it gives an excellent insight into the issues of human psychological development and constructing the co-operative, democratic economic enterprise society.  


NEUROSCIENCE AND MORAL POLITICS: Chomsky?s Intellectual Progeny

Are humans "wired for empathy"? How does this affect what Chomsky calls the "manufacturing of consent"?

An essay by Gary Olson
Posted: October 16, 2007

Throughout the world, teachers, sociologists, policymakers and parents are discovering that empathy may be the single most important quality that must be nurtured to give peace a fighting chance.
?Arundhati Ray

The official directives needn?t be explicit to be well understood: Do not let too much empathy move in unauthorized directions.
?Norman Solomon

The nonprofit Edge Foundation recently asked some of the world?s most eminent scientists, ?What are you optimistic about? Why?? In response, the prominent neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni cites the proliferating experimental work into the neural mechanisms that reveal how humans are ?wired for empathy.?

Iacoboni?s optimism is grounded in his belief that, with the popularization of scientific insights, these recent findings in neuroscience will seep into public awareness and ?. . . this explicit level of understanding our empathic nature will at some point dissolve the massive belief systems that dominate our societies and that threaten to destroy us.? (Iacoboni, 2007, p. 14)

While there are reasons to remain skeptical (see below) about the progressive political implications flowing from this work, a body of impressive empirical evidence reveals that the roots of prosocial behavior, including moral sentiments such as empathy, precede the evolution of culture. This work sustains Noam Chomsky?s visionary writing about a human moral instinct, and his assertion that, while the principles of our moral nature have been poorly understood, ?we can hardly doubt their existence or their central role in our intellectual and moral lives.? (Chomsky, 1971, n.p., 1988; 2005, p. 263)

In his influential book Mutual Aid (1972, p. 57; 1902), the Russian revolutionary anarchist, geographer, and naturalist Petr Kropotkin, maintained that ?. . . under any circumstances sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life. Those species which willingly abandon it are doomed to decay.? Species cooperation provided an evolutionary advantage, a ?natural? strategy for survival.

 for the rest of the article, see: the whole Gary Olson article