The Mirror-Neuron Paradox: How Far is Sympathy from Compassion, Indulgence, and Adulation?
The mirror-neuron system (MNS) becomes instigated when the spectator empathizes with the principal’s intention. MNS also involves imitation, where empathy is irrelevant. While the former may attenuate the principal’s emotion, the latter paradoxically reinforces it. This paper proposes a solution of the contradictory attenuation/reinforcement functions of fellow-feeling by distinguishing two axes: “rationality axis” concerns whether the action is efficient or suboptimal; “intentionality axis” concerns whether the intention is “wellbeing” or “evil.” The solution shows how group solidarity differs from altruism and fairness; how revulsion differs from squeamishness; how malevolence differs from selfishness; and how racial hatred differs from racial segregation.
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