Empathy for the Devil

In Amy Coplan & Peter Goldie (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK. pp. 318 (2011)
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Abstract

I argue that there is a blinkering effect to decency. Being a morally sensitive person, and having internalized a code of behavior that restricts the range of actions that one takes as live options for oneself, constrains one’s imagination. It becomes harder to identify imaginatively with mportant parts of human possibility. In particular—the part of the claim that I will argue for in this chapter—it limits one’s capacity to empathize with those who perform atrocious acts. They become alien to one. This is an obstacle to understanding many important, if awful, human actions. But it also creates obstacles to understanding some very ordinary,relatively harmless, actions. It is a problem that decent people have to grapple with. (These themes are developed further in my book *Emotion and Imagination* Polity 2013.)

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Author's Profile

Adam Morton
PhD: Princeton University; Last affiliation: University of British Columbia

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