How is Empathy Related to Understanding?

In Thomas Nenon & Lester Embree (eds.), Issues in Husserl's II (Contributions to Phenomenology). pp. 199-212 (2010)
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A close link between empathy and understanding has often been attributed to Dilthey, but in fact one seldom finds the German word for empathy—Einfühlung— in his writings. For this and other reasons one should be reluctant to reduce Dilthey’s theory of Verstehen to a form of empathy.1 The relation between Einfühlung and Verstehen is much more explicit in Husserl. By working out what this relation is for Husserl in Book Two of Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie and in some other late writings, we can see how phenomenology transformed the aesthetic meaning of Einfühlung, which had been originally established by the psychologist Theodor Lipps. In addition to distinguishing several senses of empathy, I will compare them to a range of related phenomena such as sympathy and pity, divination and transposition, appreciative understanding and critical understanding.



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Rudolf Makkreel
Emory University

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