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From Robert Samuel Newson <>
Subject Re: [PROPOSAL] Code of conduct - edit of the point 2
Date Sat, 19 Jul 2014 15:13:20 GMT

"Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another."

Expecting people to have empathy is not vague. Expecting people to be honest is also not vague.
I’m sure we all *have* empathy and that it’s a perfectly reasonable requirement of our
community members.

I think your issue is not that empathy is vaguely defined but that it is difficult to practice
well when participants are remote. And I completely agree with you. It is hard to read other
people’s emotion states. I’ve certainly erred in that judgement myself (and not just once!).
That is not the same as saying we shouldn’t try, or that, if we fail, that no mistake was
really made because the term is so vague.

It might be that the term "empathy" is sufficiently ambiguous to warrant a replacement but
I’m mindful that few words are rigidly defined, most carry two or more senses. Attempts
to coin new terms with precisely one meaning have also failed ("refactor", to name one, has
lost its sole reason for existing through constant misuse).

I’m not as confident as you that "honest" is not vague. You might think that because your
peer group broadly agree on its meaning, but that’s obviously not the same thing at all.

Summary: Acknowledging that one cannot always accurately know the emotional state of another
is not an argument against empathy, it is an argument for empathy.

To save this going on forever, are you vetoing the use of the word "empathy"? If so, can you
suggest alternate wording that captures the intent? That does not include removing it and
replacing it with different virtues like honesty.


On 19 Jul 2014, at 15:47, Benoit Chesneau <> wrote:

> On Sat, Jul 19, 2014 at 3:30 PM, Joan Touzet <> wrote:
>> Again, I am -1 on this. Having awareness of the emotional state of others
>> has proven time and again to be of critical importance, especially in this
>> community where tempers have flared.
> You don't have any possibility to know what is the emotional state of
> the other. Except if you live in his head. These are just guess and
> prone to error. Especially via mail.
>> If you don't like the word empathy, we need to add back in this concept
>> at the very top level, within the first few words - NOT past the colon.
> I don't like relying on something vague and prone to conflict. Which
> one will be the more empathic in your view. The one that follow the
> opinion or the one that doesn't think you are empathetic with him? Who
> will  be the more empathetic?
> Honesty however is not a vague concept. Neither is trust ie the
> belief that someone or something is reliable, good, honest, effective,
> etc.
> where empathy is:  the feeling that you understand and share another
> person's experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone
> else's feelings.
> The feeling...

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