RESPONDENT: Are you saying this [taking care of other people and things] only happens in a selfish sort of way? That all feeling caring is selfish – therefore not really caring at all?
RICHARD: I would rather say ‘self’-centred than ‘selfish’ … when someone is touched by another’s suffering, as in being moved sufficiently to stimulate caring action, it is their own suffering which is being kindled and quickened. Thus feelings are being aroused, which motivate the activity of caring, and taking care of the other works to assuage the aroused feelings (as well as working to help the other of course). Shall I put it this way? They are missing-out on experiencing the actuality of the caring action, the helpful activity itself, which is taking place.
RESPONDENT: OK, so ‘self’-centred caring (feeling caring) actually works to eliminate one’s own suffering?
RICHARD: Not ‘eliminate’ … mitigate, alleviate, lessen, diminish.
RESPONDENT: Even so, the other person suffering is getting cared for.
RICHARD: Aye … the other person does get physically taken care of but both persons miss out on the direct experience of the caring action, the helpful activity itself, which is taking place.
RESPONDENT: So properly caring for the other person is a prerequisite for ‘assuaging’ one’s own aroused feelings.
RICHARD: Yes … else there be feelings of guilt, compunction, shame, ignominy and so on.
RESPONDENT: Isn’t this actually caring about the other person?
RICHARD: The physical act of caring – the helpful activity itself – is certainly happening but actually caring (an inseparate regard) is not … there is only feeling caring (a unifying solicitude) occurring.
RESPONDENT: Admittedly, it is caring via one’s own feeling, but one actually does care about the other, since it is only through proper care of the other that one’s own feelings are ‘assuaged’.
RICHARD: No, one does not actually care about the other – one feels that one cares about the other – which is not to deny that ‘proper care’ does occur … it is remarkable what physical assistance is achieved despite all the hindrances.
RESPONDENT: I’m never quite sure how to take the word, ‘actually’ when you use it – whether it’s sometimes the normal usage – or whether it’s always the ‘actualism’ usage. For example, I am tempted to say that even when one is empathetic and works to resolve another’s suffering – then one actually cared about their suffering – about the other person – again admittedly, via one’s own suffering, yet there is caring taking place – but it’s not actual caring (in the ‘actualism’ usage).
RICHARD: When empathy works to resolve another’s suffering an empathetic caring occurs – this is not under dispute – but it is occurring as a feeling activity … in the form of affective vibes and/or psychic currents. However, it is only occurring in the real world – there is no empathetic caring here in this actual world – which is a salutary point few comprehend.
For instance, some ‘born-again’ people bailed me up in the street some time ago in order to save me from their devil (only they called it ‘The Devil’ so as to make their fantasy universal): as the conversation waxed they grew more and more intense, their words became loving words, their eyes became radiant eyes, their faces became soft and suffused with a glowing shade of pink, and if my companion had been with me at the time she could have verified, as she has on other occasions, that feeling vibes and psychic currents were swirling and eddying all about.
Eventually they gave up as they could not ‘reach’ me (aka establish a feeling connection).
RESPONDENT: I’m still trying to pin down exactly how feeling caring is an ‘illusion’ of caring. I’m still tempted to think that one does care even in empathy – though not in the actualist sense. Does the illusion come in where one thinks that that sort of caring is (or can be) not self-centred?
RICHARD: That is partly so – an unselfish ‘self’ is still a ‘self’ nevertheless and is perforce ‘self’-centred in all its activities – but there is also the factor of just who it is that is caring for who it is that is being cared for to take into account. In other words: it is an illusory identity inside one body which is caring for an illusory identity in another body. Which is what the born-again people in the above example were (futilely) attempting to do … and I say ‘futilely’ because there is no entity inside this flesh and blood body to be stroked by their blandishments.
Or to be goaded by intimations of perdition, of course.