Affective empathy as core moral agency: psychopathy, autism and reason revisited

Philosophical Explorations 17 (1):76-92 (2014)
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Empathy has become a common point of debate in moral psychology. Recent developments in psychiatry, neurosciences and social psychology have led to the revival of sentimentalism, and the ‘empathy thesis’ has suggested that affective empathy, in particular, is a necessary criterion of moral agency. The case of psychopaths – individuals incapable of affective empathy and moral agency, yet capable of rationality – has been utilised in support of this case. Critics, however, have been vocal. They have asserted that the case of autism proves the empathy thesis wrong; that psychopathy centres on rational rather than empathic limitations; that empathy is not relevant to many common normative behaviours; and that rationality is required when empathy fails. The present paper analyses these four criticisms. It will be claimed that they each face severe difficulties, and that moral agency ought to be approached via a multi-tier model, with affective empathy as a baseline



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Citations of this work

Empathy and the Value of Humane Understanding.Olivia Bailey - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):50-65.
The Relational Value of Empathy.Monika Betzler - 2019 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 27 (2):136-161.
Moral Sentimentalism.Antti Kauppinen - 2002 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

The Ethics of Care and Empathy.Michael Slote - 2001 - New York: Routledge.
The emotional basis of moral judgments.Jesse Prinz - 2006 - Philosophical Explorations 9 (1):29-43.
Is empathy necessary for morality.Jesse J. Prinz - 2011 - In Amy Coplan & Peter Goldie (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 211--229.

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