Empathy in Translation: Movement and Image in the Psychological Laboratory

Science in Context 25 (3):301-327 (2012)
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Abstract

ArgumentThe new English term “empathy” was translated from the GermanEinfühlungin the first decade of the twentieth century by the psychologists James Ward at the University of Cambridge and Edward B. Titchener at Cornell. At Titchener's American laboratory, “empathy” was not a matter of understanding other minds, but rather a projection of imagined bodily movements and accompanying feelings into an object, a meaning that drew from its rich nineteenth-century aesthetic heritage. This rendering of “empathy” borrowed kinaesthetic meanings from German sources, but extended beyond a contemplation of the beautiful to include a variety of experimental stimuli and everyday objects in the laboratory. According to Titchener's structural psychology, all higher thought could be reduced to more elemental aspects of mind, and experimental introspection showed empathy to be constituted of kinaesthetic images. The existence of kinaesthetic images, Titchener argued, formed an incisive critique of the view that thought could take place without images, held by one of Titchener's major psychological rivals, the school of thought-psychologists in Würzburg, Germany. The new term “empathy” in early American academic psychology therefore delineated a kinaesthetic imaginative projection that took place on the basis of ontological difference between minds and things.

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References found in this work

Historical ontology.Ian Hacking - 2002 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Objectivity.Lorraine Daston - 2007 - Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. Edited by Peter Galison.
The Nature of Sympathy.Max Scheler, Peter Heath & W. Stark - 1955 - Philosophical Review 64 (4):671-673.

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