The Ecstatic Nature of Empathy

This paper ventures an analysis of empathy along the lines of Heidegger’s ecstatic structure of being-in-the-world. Empathy is construed as a mode of attunement disclosing the existential weal and woe of others, and as such it serves a basic ethical function of opening up moral import, interest, and motivation. The following conclusions will be drawn: 1) empathy is a genuine possibility in human experience and should not be understood as a “subjective” phenomenon; 2) empathy is “natural” in a way that can trump psychological egoism and open up alternatives to ethical egoism; 3) the role of empathy shows the limits of rationality in ethics and the structural defects in utilitarian and deontological theories; 4) findings in social psychology reinforce Heidegger’s phenomenology, and the latter can help surmount flawed assumptions in the former; 5) empathy is not sufficient for an ethics but it may be a necessary condition for human moral development
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DOI 10.5840/jpr_2001_6
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