Empathy or Intersubjectivity? Understanding the Origins of Morality in Young Children’

Studies in Philosophy and Education 27 (1):33-47 (2007)
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Abstract

This article is about young children’s morality and their concern for others’ wellbeing. Questions of what the value of others’ wellbeing can signify, how this value becomes visible to children and how it is expressed in their interaction will be posed. In this analysis, children’s commitment to others’ wellbeing is discussed in terms of two theories, namely the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theory of intersubjectivity and the psychologist Martin Hoffman’s theory of empathy. The interaction between children and adults in pre-school, drawn from different studies of morality, constitutes the empirical basis. In the discussion, it is claimed that children’s care for others’ wellbeing can be understood in a fruitful way as experiences of, approaches to and ways of being involved in the other’s life-world rather than as expressions of empathy.

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