Empathy and the Value of Humane Understanding

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (1):50-65 (2022)
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Empathy is a form of emotionally charged imaginative perspective‐taking. It is also the unique source of a particular form of understanding, which I will call humane understanding. Humane understanding consists in the direct apprehension of the intelligibility of others’ emotions. This apprehension is an epistemic good whose ethical significance is multifarious. In this paper, I focus on elaborating the sense in which humane understanding of others is non‐instrumentally valuable to its recipients. People have a complex but profound need to be humanely understood. Because we respond to others’ very real need when we pursue this sort of understanding of their emotions, empathy is best understood as itself a way of caring, rather than just a means to promote other caring behavior.



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Olivia Bailey
University of California, Berkeley

Citations of this work

Outrage and the Bounds of Empathy.Sukaina Hirji - 2022 - Philosophers' Imprint 22 (16).
Solidarity and the Work of Moral Understanding.Samuel Dishaw - forthcoming - Philosophical Quarterly.
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When and why to empathize with political opponents.Hannah Read - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):773-793.

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References found in this work

Emotions, Values, and Agency.Christine Tappolet - 2016 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Against Empathy.Jesse Prinz - 2011 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):214-233.
The authority of affect.Mark Johnston - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (1):181-214.
The expression of feeling in imagination.Richard Moran - 1994 - Philosophical Review 103 (1):75-106.

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