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147 8 COMPASSIONATE REASON The Most Important Cultural and Religious Capacity for a Peaceful Future Marc Gopin I will argue in this essay that the cultivation of compassionate reason is the key to a less violent planetary future, a future in which secular and religious communities can collaborate constructively for a new path of education and shared ethical practices for individuals, families, communities, and nations. Compassionate reason will be enhanced and strengthened within the human being the more that religion, philosophy , and neuroscience consciously collaborate on understanding and increasing this most vital human capacity. I am defining compassionate reason as compassionate thoughts, experiences, and regular practices that lead the mind inexorably toward higher reasoning and universal principles for equal ethical treatment of all sentient beings. The compassion that extends to all leads the mind naturally to use reason to employ moral principles that can apply compassion to all beings equally in order to adequately and reasonably fulfill the drive to compassion. Compassionate reason constitutes, therefore: first, the cultivation of a state of mind and, second, a mode of ethical practice. I will argue that the experience and practice of compassion can with proper guidance lead the mind to build principles for compassion to be applied to all sentient life. The mind, influenced by the moral sense and experience of compassion, is challenged by its very emotional universality to then use reason to apply those feelings toward building universal principles for a diverse, divided, and conflicted world. This is essentially what Kant referred to as a good will but devised through 148 Marc Gopin a path that combines the mind’s emotional capacity for compassionate action and its capacity for reason-­ based will and behavior. I will also argue that both science and significant schools of philosophical ethics make the case that the will and universal principles of reason for ethics are inextricably connected to prosocial emotions, especially compassion. Emotions and principles of reason are indissolubly related, challenging and changing each other. I am claiming that the combination of compassionate feelings and behaviors, and reason’s development of universal principles of application therefrom, is the only sure way to achieve a less violent world shared by all, regardless of race or creed. Human beings are constantly competing for increasingly scarce resources and are embroiled in a great variety of conflicts that have reached tragic proportions in a world of seven billion people. Negative emotions such as fear, greed, and jealousy can push the mind to only violent solutions to scarce resource challenges. Prosocial emotions such as compassion and hope, however, induce the mind to search for new approaches to survival and flourishing, as well as toward trust, solidarity, and shared enterprises with fellow human beings. 1. Scientific and Philosophical Foundations of Compassionate Reason Roots in Neuroscience and Psychosocial Studies A psychological analysis of ethics, and particularly the ethics of nonviolence , was gathered into an exhaustive study in recent years, with the aim of isolating the most essential elements of moral behavior leading to less violence.1 This analysis, performed across many cultures and societies, discovered that a prevalence of compassion, related to ethical feelings and actions, was the most significant factor leading to reduced levels of violence. Empathy is vital as well, but predators and sociopaths also have empathy in the sense of using an empathic understanding of victims in order to destroy victims, often with great acumen (more on this below). Compassion, however, is defined as empathy plus an intense kind of solidarity or identification with the other being, which results in thoughts and acts of kindness, benevolence, and love. The biochemical and neurological foundations of this experience are not so simple to isolate. Some have posited a particular kind of neuron referred to as a mirror neuron, but this is not conclusive. Mirror neurons explain much of the human and animal tendency to copy one another and be deeply affected by one another, but this does not COMPASSIONATE REASON 149 yield the results always of compassionate feelings and moral actions. Others have searched for particular neurotransmitters that seem to be especially associated with compassion, such as oxytocin, but this is a topic beyond our scope. Compassion and Reason as Psychological Partners More important for our argument is that compassion by itself has not been shown to be enough to develop the moral human being capable of being peaceful with everyone, for the simple reason that compassion for some and not others is often a catalyst for violence rather than...


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