More than two hundred years after its publication, David Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals is still widely regarded as either a footnote to the more philosophically interesting third book of the Treatise, or an abbreviated, more stylish, version of that earlier work. These standard interpretations are rather difficult to square with Hume's own assessment of the second Enquiry. Are we to think that Hume called the EPM “incomparably the best” of all his writings only because he preferred that (...) later style of exposition? Or worse, should we take his preference for the second Enquiry as a sign of aging literary vanity? Does Hume's stated preference for the EPM in no way speak to its philosophical content? (shrink)
Dispassionate cruelty and the euphoria of hunting or battle should be distinguished from the emotional savoring of victims' suffering. Such savoring, best called negative empathy, is what puzzles motivational theory. Hyperbolic discounting theory suggests that sympathy with people who have unwanted but seductive traits creates a threat to self-control. Cruelty to those people may often be the least effortful way of countering this threat.
In recent years, explanations of primate cognition highlighted clever arguments, rather than different ability. In the target article, definitions unify, explanations rely on basic nervous system functioning, theory is built on data that fit, and the emphasis is on evolutionary continuities. This commentary describes complexities inherent in the development of empathy that are not accounted for in Preston & de Waal's theory.
With his theory of sympathy in the Treatise of Human Nature, Hume has been interpreted as anticipating later hermeneutic theories of understanding. It is argued in the present article that Hume has good reasons to consider a hermeneutic theory of empathetic understanding, that such a theory avoids a serious difficulty in Hume’s “official,” positivist theory of sympathy, that it is compatible with the complex and subtle form of positivism, or naturalism, developed in Book 1 of the Treatise, and that his (...) analysis of sympathy provides valuable methodological rules for empathetic interpreters. Against the interpretation of James Farr in “Hume, Hermeneutics, and History,” it is maintained that Hume’s theory does not support a hermeneutics of nonempathetic Verstehen. (shrink)
This paper explores the significance of Adam Smith's ideas for defending non-cognitivist theories of aesthetic appreciation of nature. Objections to non-cognitivism argue that the exercise of emotion and imagination in aesthetic judgement potentially sentimentalizes and trivializes nature. I argue that although directed at moral judgement, Smith's views also find a place in addressing this problem. First, sympathetic imagination may afford a deeper and more sensitive type of aesthetic engagement. Second, in taking up the position of the impartial spectator, aesthetic judgements (...) may originate in a type of self-regulated response where we stand outside ourselves to check those overly humanizing tendencies which might lead to a failure in appreciating nature as nature. (shrink)
There is no doubt that emotions have an important effect on practices of moral reasoning such as clinical ethics consultation. Empathy is not only a basic human emotion but also an important and learnable skill for health care professionals. A basic amount of empathy is essential both in patient care and in clinical ethics consultation. This article debates the “adequate dose” of empathy in ethics consultations in clinical settings and tries to identify possible situations within the process of consultation in (...) which this crucial feeling is at risk. (shrink)
Assuming a relational understanding of the self, I argue that empathy is necessary for individual and cultural recovery from rape. However, gender affects our ability to listen with empathy to rape survivors. For women, the existence of cultural memories discourages empathy either by engendering fear of their own future rape or by provoking sympathy rather than empathy. For men, the lack of cultural memories makes rape what Arendt calls an "unreality," thus diminishing the possibility for empathy. Although empathetic listeningpresents gender (...) specific challenges for both women and men, it should not be abandoned as a strategy for trauma recovery. I make two broad suggestions for promoting empathy. First, we need to teach empathy for victims and survivors. Second, we need to discredit problematic gender norms, which buttress rape culture and sexual violence. (shrink)
This paper shows that even if the mental states of non-human animals lack phenomenological properties, as some accounts of mental-state consciousness imply, this need not prevent those states from being appropriate objects of sympathy and moral concern. The paper argues that the most basic form of mental (as opposed to biological) harm lies in the existence of thwarted agency, or thwarted desire, rather than in anything phenomenological.
This paper aims to do two things. First, it describes the place that Adam Smith actually occupies in current research occurring at the boundaries of new interdisciplinary social-science fields such as evolutionary anthropology, evolutionary psychology, neuro-economics and behavioral economics. Second, it suggests a way in which Smith's place in the debates with which these subjects are concerned may be more properly defined and conceptualized. Specifically, the paper focuses on the controversial new theory of strong reciprocity, and on the reputation effects (...) that its critics think that theory neglects. (shrink)
According to an influential view, empathy has, and should have, a role in ethics, but it is by no means clear what is meant by 'empathy', and why exactly it is supposed to be morally good. Recently, Peter Goldie has challenged that view. He shows how problematic empathy is, and argues that taking an external perspective is morally superior: we should focus on the other, rather than ourselves. But this argument is misguided in several ways. If we consider conversation, there (...) is no need to see an opposition between a focus on the other and on ourselves. I propose to shift the perspective of the discussion towards the needs of those who are supposed to benefit from empathy, and to study how people communicate their imaginative processes towards their receivers. I end with an exploration of theoretical resources for an account of mutual perspective-shifting. (shrink)
A longstanding problem with the study of empathy is the lack of a clear and agreed upon definition. A trend in the recent literature is to respond to this problem by advancing a broad and all-encompassing view of empathy that applies to myriad processes ranging from mimicry and imitation to high-level perspective taking. I argue that this response takes us in the wrong direction and that what we need in order to better understand empathy is a narrower conceptualization, not a (...) broader one. I propose that empathy be conceptualized as a complex, imaginative process through which an observer simulates another person's situated psychological states while maintaining clear self–other differentiation. I defend my view through an examination of three processes: emotional contagion, a process of self-oriented perspective taking that I call “pseudo-empathy,” and empathy proper. Drawing on recent findings in social neuroscience, I highlight the differences among these processes and discuss conceptual, empirical, and normative reasons for keeping them theoretically and conceptually distinct. (shrink)
According to "the argument from discernment", sympathetic motivation is morally faulty, because it is morally undiscriminating. Sympathy can incline you to do the right thing, but it can also incline you to do the wrong thing. And if so, it is no better as a reason for doing something than any other morally arbitrary consideration. The only truly morally good form of motivation--because the only morally non-arbitrary one--involves treating an action's rightness as your reason for performing it. This paper attacks (...) the argument from discernment and argues against its conclusion. (shrink)
This discussion explores the moral psychology and metaethics of Michael Slote's Moral Sentimentalism. I argue that his account of empathy has an important lacuna, because the sense in which an empathizer feels the same feeling that his target feels requires explanation, and the most promising candidates are unavailable to Slote. I then argue that the (highly original) theory of moral approval and disapproval that Slote develops in his book is implausible, both phenomenologically and for the role it accords to empathy. (...) Finally, I suggest that these problems in moral psychology undermine Slote's metaethical argument for identifying rightness and wrongness with agential warmth and coldness in action. (shrink)
What is it for two or more people to be with one another or together? And what role do empathic psychological processes play, either as essential constituents or as typical elements? As I define it, to be genuinely with each other, persons must be jointly aware of their mutual openness to mutual relating. This means, I argue, that being with is a second-personal phenomenon in the sense I discuss in The Second-Person Standpoint. People who are with each other are in (...) one another's presence, where the latter is a matter of second-personal standing or authority, as in the divine presence or in the king's presence. To be with someone is, therefore, to give the other second-personal standing, implicitly, to claim it for oneself and, thus, to enter into a relation of mutual accountability. Second-personal relating, I argue, requires a distinctive form of empathy, projective empathy, through which we imaginatively occupy others' perspectives and view ourselves as if from their point of view. Projective empathy is thus an essential constituent of “being with.” But it is not the only form of empathy that being with typically involves. Further, I discuss ways in which emotional contagion, affect attunement, as well as projective empathy typically enter into the complex psychological (and ethical) phenomenon of being with another person. (shrink)
In what follows, I wish to discuss empathy and sympathy’s relevance to ethics, taking recent findings into account. In particular, I want to consider sympathy’s relation to the idea of a person’s good or well-being. It is obvious and uncontroversial that sympathetic concern for a person involves some concern for her good and some desire to promote it. What I want to suggest is that the concept of a person’s good or well-being is one we have because we are capable (...) of care and sympathetic concern. Well-being is normative for care in the sense that it is intrinsic to the very idea of a person’s good that threats to it are what it makes sense to be concerned about for that person for her sake. (shrink)
Edmund Husserl’s Kaizo articles mark one of his first attempts at notions of cultural renewal and critique. (1) Central to both of these notions for Husserl is the idea of a best possible humanity. At the conclusion of the Kaizo articles, Husserl entertains some quite troubling and potentially dangerous descriptions of the best possible in terms of an Übernation or Weltvolk. Although merely provisional, these descriptions call for a cultural and ethical renewal through the reorientation of humanity in accord with (...) a single, unified “world.” The Kaizo articles do represent Husserl’s most concentrated effort in developing a notion of cultural renewal but are not the only attempt made by Husserl at this time. In manuscripts written at nearly the exact same time period, Husserl had also taken up this notion of the best possible, but he did so in terms of the shared experiences in the acts of sympathy. (2) These sympathy manuscripts offer a genetic description of the origins of the best possible, in contrast to the static, eidetic method Husserl employed in the Kaizo articles. My aim in this paper is to show that a genetic phenomenological approach, grounding the best possible in the lived experiences of sympathy, offers a much more concrete telos for humanity. Solidarity among all human beings, rather than the idea of a “super nation,” would function as the best possible, as what we should and, thus, can become. Although certain shortcomings remain in the sympathy manuscripts, they indicate a much better beginning for a phenomenological approach to the question of a cultural renewal, a beginning that first emerges in genesis and the lived experience of the suffering of a fellow human being. (shrink)
This study investigated the experiences of, and interactions between, participants of a Forum theatre workshop, which addressed the issue of the refugee child at school. Staged by a UK theatre company, whose actors had, in their own lives, experienced being homeless and/or refugees, the workshop was investigated as it was performed in three London secondary state schools. Findings revealed that the workshop was highly relevant to the students, reflecting moral dilemmas which they faced in their everyday lives, as they encountered (...) refugee students at school. This interactive workshop gave them the opportunity to try out moral behaviour, which could potentially be applied to real-life situations. Students felt that the workshop enabled them to put themselves "in other people's shoes", both the fictional characters in the workshop as well as actual people they knew at school. The homeless and refugee histories of the actors themselves intensified the reality of the workshop experience. The Forum theatre workshop aimed to encourage the students to become moral agents in their own lives. However, its ability to do this was limited by the lack of both moral reflection upon the issues raised, and guidance in appropriate moral action following the workshop. This absence of follow-up relates to the fact that the workshop was perceived by teachers as a drama activity, and no attempts were made to address its moral content which, teachers felt, belonged to the domain of the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) in the National Curriculum for England. (shrink)
The recent discovery of so-called “mirror-neurons” in monkeys and a corresponding mirroring “system” in humans has provoked wide endorsement of the claim that humans understand a variety of observed actions, somatic sensations, and emotions via a kind of direct representation of those actions, sensations, and emotions. Philosophical efforts to assess the import of such “mirrored understanding” have typically focused on how that understanding might be brought to bear on theories of mindreading (how we represent other creatures as having mental states), (...) and usually in cases of action. By contrast, this paper assesses mirrored understanding in cases of emotion and its import for theories of <span class='Hi'>empathy</span> and especially <span class='Hi'>empathy</span> in ethical contexts. In particular, this paper argues that the mirrored understanding claim is ambiguous and ultimately misleading when applied to emotion, partly because mirroring proponents fail to appreciate the way in which <span class='Hi'>empathy</span> might serve a distinct normative function in our judgments of what other people feel. The paper thus concludes with a call to revise the mirrored understanding claim, whether in neuroscience, psychology, or philosophy. (shrink)
This paper uses a study of the opinions in a case recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., to explain the role of empathy in legal interpretation. I argue for two theses: (1) that empathy is essential to an interpretation of law if that interpretation is to serve the interests of justice and (2) that no interpretation of a law is sound if it ignores whether so interpreting the law serves the interests of (...) justice. (shrink)
This paper responds to criticisms of sympathy-based approaches to ethics made by Jesse Prinz, focusing on the criticism that emotions are too variable to form a basis for ethics. I draw on the idea, articulated by early sentimentalists such as Hutcheson and Hume, that proper reliance on sympathy is subject to a corrective procedure in order, in part, to avoid the variability problem.
Sympathy for animals is regarded by many thinkers as theoretically disreputable. Against this I argue that sympathy appropriately underlies moral concern for animals. I offer an account of sympathy that distinguishes sympathy with from sympathy for fellow creatures, and I argue that both can be placed on an objective basis, if we differentiate enlightened from folk sympathy. Moreover, I suggest that sympathy for animals is not, as some have claimed, incompatible with environmentalism; on the contrary, it can ground environmental concern. (...) Finally, I show that the traditional concept of anthropomorphism has no coherent basis, and I argue that the attempt to prove that animals lack thoughts is both unsuccessful and irrelevant to sympathy for languageless creatures. (shrink)
As J. Baird Callicott has argued, Adam Smith’s moral theory is a philosophical ancestor of recent work in environmental ethics. However, Smith’s “all important emotion of sympathy” (Callicott 2001: 209) seems incapable of extension to entities that lack emotions with which one can sympathize. Drawing on the distinctive account of sympathy developed in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments , as well as his account of anthropomorphizing nature in “History of Astronomy and Physics,” I show that sympathy with non-sentient nature is (...) possible within a Smithian ethics. This provides the possibility of extending sympathy, and thereby benevolence and justice, to nature. (shrink)
As J. Baird Callicott has argued, Adam Smith's moral theory is a philosophical ancestor of recent work in environmental ethics. However, Smith's "all important emotion of sympathy" (Callicott, 2001, p. 209) seems incapable of extension to entities that lack emotions with which one can sympathize. Drawing on the distinctive account of sympathy developed in Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, as well as his account of anthropomorphizing nature in "History of Astronomy and Physics," I show that sympathy with non-sentient nature is (...) possible within a Smithian ethics. This provides the possibility of extending sympathy, and thereby benevolence and justice, to nature. (shrink)
One of the more striking aspects of Adam Smith's moral theory is the degree to which it depends on and appeals to aesthetic norms. By considering what Smith says about judgments of propriety – the foundational type of judgment in his system – and by tying what he says in The Theory of Moral Sentiments to certain of his other writings, I argue that Smith ultimately defends an aesthetic morality. Among the challenges that any aesthetic morality faces is that it (...) seems to entail moral relativism. This problem is magnified by Smith's reliance on the judgments of the impartial spectator, which also seems to make his theory more vulnerable to a Euthyphro-type objection. I suggest that Smith can potentially get around these problems, given his presumption of aesthetic naturalism. While there is certainly some variation in our aesthetic judgments, Smith claims that we naturally find certain actions and sentiments odious, while others we find agreeable. The reason, he argues, is that any society that judged otherwise would not survive. (shrink)