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Re: What does it feel like to have a conscience?

Ecce Homo
. . .for me, it is more about how I feel when I say and do things that lead to pain for others. It doesn’t feel right to me. You ask about the body. . . I feel it in my body, the “wrongness” of hurting others. When I am helpful, loving, compassionate and kind I feel that as well. I feel it as a kind of warmth, a lightness, and as emotional uplift. . . For me it is more about the connection between living beings. If I act as if there is no connection, the resulting feeling is a sense of wrongness or incorrectness. If I act in ways that honor the connectedness, I experience that as rightness or correctness. . . the idea that we are all connected should not be too controversial or “woo-woo” of an idea. We share 99% of our DNA! That fact alone should indicate to you that what we have in common far outweighs what makes us different.

Another good post, Ecce Homo. I am appreciating your point of view. I am impressed with Daniel's obvious intelligence, and I very much enjoyed his dialog with Doctor Robert. However, Daniel seems to base his entire outlook on what he thinks which leaves out, as you mentioned, our essential brotherhood/sisterhood on the physical (DNA) level, which is something true no matter what anyone thinks. I saw that Doctor Robert tried to get him to notice that without being too explicit, but Daniel could not see it apparently. In fact, Daniel seemed to take his conversation with the Doctor as a kind of competition or battle of wits, while the Doctor seemed only to be trying to help Daniel to expand his world view. I know Daniel would say that the Doctor, by trying to "help," is really in his own way trying to get power over others, but I don't believe that. I have read every word on Dr. Robert's website, and have come to the conclusion that he is a genuinely good-hearted, open-hearted person who obviously has suffered himself, and feels compassion for human (and animal) suffering.

I think a great example of that compassion can be seen in one of his recent articles called I Am a Young Muslim. I Found Out That My Girlfriend Is Not Pure. Now I Want To Kill Myself. Doctor Robert did everything he could to help that young man stay alive and wake up from his suicidal dream, and later received a letter of thanks from the boy who had decided to live. Everyone should read that answer. It goes to the heart of religion, belief, and the tragic nature of the human condition. I cannot believe that the Doctor spent all that time and effort with the boy simply to gain power over him as Daniel seems to believe. Good work, Doctor!

I agree with you that a conscience is a natural feeling which arises when we notice our connection to other humans and animals, and understand that all of us are in the same boat--sometimes we are in pain, sometimes we are frightened, and (we humans anyway) are always aware that we are going to die.

I share your appreciation of Dr Robert making this forum possible, and providing a very stimulating website.

Re: What does it feel like to have a conscience?

Yes, crazydice, I agree with this. Daniel seems to lie to himself a lot, or at least he imagines things about himself which don't seem to stand up to scrutiny. When the doc tried to open a door to that possibility, Daniel shut it quickly in a classic gesture of defense mechanism. He told the doc not to try to defeat him in a battle of wits, saying that it would never happen. Well, the doc seems pretty smart to me, but I never thought he was trying to lord it over Daniel anyway. I thing the battle was all in Daniels mind. Of course we all have and need our defenses, and pointing this out is nothing against Daniel in particular, but his obvious intelligence seems at times more a handicap than a strength.

Here's a good example. In another thread called : Empathy and what it means to be "human" Daniel said

"Wherever my travels have taken me, I have always come back to the realization that although I am biologically a member of the human race, psychologically I am an alien. There is no home for someone like me, no "true" role. I am incapable of believing in or emotionally investing in any of it."

But this is obviously wrong on the face of it. Daniel is a member of the human race not just biologically but psychologically as well. His form of alienated feelings are not all that unusual. That was the doc's point in trying to un-demonize psychopathy so that it could be understood as what the doc calls a normal human personality variant. But Daniel does not really seem to want to be normal, because that might mean this his lack of compassion and emotional warmth really is a deficiency and not a strength as he wants to make it.

No matter where it comes from, whatever combination of DNA and childhood experiences, a conscience is a pretty nice thing to have, and trying to say as some do on this forum that lacking a conscience is a kind of freedom to me seems like trying to make lemonade out of lemons.

Anyway, crazydice, I agree with you about Ecce Homo's, comment about human connectedness. Keep up the good work, Ecce Homo. I hope the doc will comment at some point on this thread, and would like to hear from Daniel too.

Re: What does it feel like to have a conscience?

Hmmm I'd like to point out something: like many other traits, whether compassion and emotional warmth are seen as strengths or weaknesses, depends on the society and culture, and era you belong to. In certain parts of Asia, the men are emotionally detached to the point of being utterly cold. These men likely have no compassion, no empathy and it is seen as a strength. To show emotions is seen as a sign of weakness like crying when disowning their children or feeling bad for beating some sense into their wife. (This manner of behaviour was probably also true for certain classes and types of females.)

Of course, in the modern 21st century Western society, this behaviour is probably seen as an aberration and thus, a weakness, because humans are supposed to be expressive, kind, caring, nurturing and stuff. I say "modern" since I recall reading in various sources that during Victorian-era and prior, the way people treated one another was really different. It was perfectly legal to execute children for stealing bread, to beat your wife and so on, depending on the "era" you were in. Humans just don't change so quickly. After all, we are still a highly vicious and violent race and no matter how much we convince ourselves that "we're nice and civilized" using theology, philosophy and so on, the memories of violence still remain within us on a certain level of our subconsciousness.

Re: What does it feel like to have a conscience?

Apparently it is still OK in many minds to beat your wife.

And yes, I agree that to a certain extent a conscience is formed by social construction--but not entirely. There is much evidence (for example see the work of Steven Pinker) that certain human emotions are universal across time and culture. Compassion certainly is one of these--the Buddha taught it 2500 years ago. How that compassion is expressed may look different in different cultures or different eras. For example, if there is an Asian male preference for keeping a stiff upper lip as in Victorian England, that does not mean that those men lack compassion. You would have to look into their minds to know that.

Re: What does it feel like to have a conscience?


I don’t really know how much humans have or have not changed over the millennia. I can say that I believe, as Doug intimates, that love and compassion have existed as enduring human traits right alongside hatred and violence. That seems to be how it is for us, for now. And as to what we are in our essence, a "vicious race" as you put it, well objectively speaking that remains to be seen, doesn't it? I have a different view of humanity based on my own explorations and insights. Humans can behave violently, obviously. They can also behave kindly, which to my mind is equally obvious. However, beyond the duality of yin and yang, black and white, good and evil, love and hate, compassion and violence, male and female and so on, there is a perfect order and infinite intelligence that manifests as all that we see and experience. This view allows me to see humanity in a much kinder light. But I am not arguing that you should believe me or take on my point of view. I'm just sharing what works well for me in helping me to lead a life that I can love.

By the way, thank you crazy dice and Doug from Vermont for your very kind words and your insightful comments. It's great to see that we're all trying to do the best we can, trying to figure this thing called life out so that we can love ourselves and others well!