Pooh’s Think

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Natural Empathy

My parents bought some legal fireworks for our new year’s celebration—the colorful kind that get the pop pop, fizz fizz about 4 to 7 feet off the ground. For small kids this kind of firework show can be a scary adventure. My two year old son was very frightened in general, but I noticed he was just as frightened for his siblings as he was for himself. Comfortably held by a grandparent, my two year old protested when my oldest daughter started getting close to the display; when my daughter started running, encircling the fizzing container of eye candy, my son put on the most intense look on his face, stretched out his hand, and cried “no, no.” He did something similar when she got close to a fire the kids were roasting marshmallows over. My two year old son does not even know how to talk much yet; but his ability to perceive harm done to another person and respond emotionally and effectively about it seemed fully formed in that instance. I wonder if his natural faculties of empathy are in fact more correctly functioning than they might be when he is older.

This experience was remarkable for me given that I had already concluded that any account of natural morality that is grounded in this natural faculty is close to sufficient, while any account lacking it is contemptible.


January 12, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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