Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives – whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.Jeff Sessions (R-Jesusland) responded:
I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes...
"The danger of that is: what is empathy? Empathy is a totally non-objective standard. It is utterly subjective. In other words, I don't like you so I have no empathy for you, but I have empathy for your opponent therefore I'm going to tilt the playing field in favor of the person who's suing you or you are suing.Or as SadlyNo shortered it:
You know who had empathy? Hitler, that's who.So I guess the Republican position is that we need to screen all prospective jurists with the Voight-Kampff Empathy Test and exclude those who pass.
This is sure to be another winning strategy for the GOP. Everyone wants a justice system packed with replicants. What with them already successfully running the Terminator for governor of California I'm beginning to think that the party may already be a front for a robot takeover.
There's been much commentary about this, but I liked this one by Jonah Lehrer points out that the lack of empathy is not impartiality but psychopathy, and also pointed out that Adam Smith laid out how empathy was the basis of morality and justice a couple hundred years ago.
Empathy is one of those concepts that cuts across and connects a whole swathe of things I'm interested in, including personhood, group formation and polarization, artificial intelligence, and politics. My dissertation (which was ostensibly about novice programming environments) was partly taken over by the question of how one attributes agency to things, and how one applies certain cognitive frames to quasi-animate objects that enable projection, identification, attribution of goals and emotions. The question of empathy in politics was how commenter Michael and I started our long and tedious debate – I thought that it was useful to apply empathetic thinking to the activities of criminals, he thought that it was just awful and you shouldn't. And of course, it was a central theme of Phil Dick's work.