Does reading affect empathy, or influence contemptible behaviour?
The attrition of words and texts has been the basis of human literacy since the start of recognised civilisations. The constant evolution of linguistics, however rapid and remotely unpossesable, has the element of benign cognitive processes, inscribed in texts. Before the undue birth of linguistics, humans were in a state of nature. Does the barbaric coercion of a ‘dog eat dog’ world rings a bell? With the culmination of traditional philosophy thinkers and gradual impetus of constructionism, the one least notion of maintaining cognitive processes was to read.
Reading is the fundamental kit to acquire wisdom through complex and graspable woven strands of knowledge. As time and organic evolutions take its path in continuity, the amount of sporadic violence has decreased over centuries. The world in itself became more civilised and literacy inclined. The relation to the decrease in violence and increase in literacy begs the question. Reading does affect empathy, in a benign social context.
Reading books pierces through prohibitive barriers, which put oneself into another person’s shoe.
“Haven’t you noticed that opinion without knowledge is always a poor thing? At the best it is blind—isn’t anyone who holds a true opinion without understanding like a blind man on the right road?” (Plato, The Republic)
The shift of perspectives on viewing a matter evidently changes the level of empathy possessed by one. Fictional narrative in its primitive form has an influence over our social behaviour and our day to day interconnections with people. The fine touch of empathy bestowed upon gives us a different insight of situations that are perceived as credence and benign. Fictional narrative transports us into the shoes of the character of the story; think, behave and feel as though we are part of the story. This cognitive process is called transportation theory. However, the levels of empathy oscillate by the stroke of text. The causal relationship between empathy and fiction has been much debated by cognitive scientists, regardless of the general influence on social behaviour.
“Morality, then, is not a set of arbitrary regulations dictated by a vengeful deity and written down in a book; nor is it the custom of a particular culture or tribe. It is a consequence of the interchangeability of perspectives and the opportunity the world provides for positive-sum games.” (Steven Pinker, The Better Angels Of Our Time)
Steven Pinker points out that the intrinsic notion of understanding the world in all its diverse complexities are not governed by the constitution of conventional values, but the reason of perspectives, which incorporate benign diplomatic world views through empathy. The evident decrease of violence in the world was much due to the identification of cultural and social changes, and the implicit direction of notion in doing so has increased with the improvement of literacy that we, however are scantly ignorant.
We observe the dichotomy of doctrine in the modern sustenance; Quran and Bible, Islam and Judaism, Palestine and Israel. What values do we have when we lose the ability to reason?