Here Distractify has 28 pictures of foods with small faces on them. Introspect while looking at them, and ask yourself: Do you feel sympathy for any of them? Though some are just very funny, I find that others do elicit genuine sympathy. That’s especially true of #4, #7, and #25.
Let’s say that you have the same reaction. If so, then you know that you can feel sympathy for things that can’t suffer. But here’s the more serious follow-up suggestion: If there is a mismatch between something’s ability to suffer and your sympathy for it, then maybe there are also cases where other beings have the ability to suffer yet you remain emotionally insensitive. Even though another being is in excruciating pain, you might fail to pick up on its cues. Might this, for instance, be the case with fish that are pulled up in the air with hooks through their cheek or with lobsters that are dipped in boiling water? They don’t push our sympathy buttons. But that doesn’t tell us that they don’t suffer intensely.
And that’s the dark side of these fun pictures. They show us that our immediate mechanism for sympathy is really very simple, and that we are easily mislead by small lines, curves, and dots. Perhaps we should be careful before making ethical judgments based on the operations of this mechanism.
Photo: Facsimile from Distractify.