Is my feeling your pain bad for others? Empathy as virtue versus empathy as fixed trait

Zygon 52 (1):232-257 (2017)

Authors
Gregory Peterson
South Dakota State University
Abstract
The purpose of this article is to critique the primary arguments given by Paul Bloom and Jesse Prinz against empathy, and to argue instead that empathy is best understood as a virtue that plays an important but complicated role in the moral life. That it is a virtue does not mean that it always functions well, and empathy sometimes contributes to behavior that is partial and unfair. In some of their writings, both Bloom and Prinz endorse the view that empathy is a fixed trait, but there is little reason to think this, and the studies that they cite do not support this view. Further, a number of recent studies suggest the opposite: our empathic reactions are malleable and subject to environmental effects and learning. Although our capacities for cognitive and emotional empathy are clearly not sufficient for being moral, I argue that they are functionally necessary traits that, like other virtues, must be cultivated correctly.
Keywords Paul Bloom  dual processing  moral psychology  cognitive empathy  virtue  emotional empathy  Jesse Prinz
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DOI 10.1111/zygo.12330
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References found in this work BETA

The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience.Selim Berker - 2009 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 37 (4):293-329.
Is Empathy Necessary for Morality.Jesse J. Prinz - 2011 - In Amy Coplan & Peter Goldie (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 211--229.
Against Empathy.Jesse Prinz - 2011 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):214-233.
Ethical Expertise: The Skill Model of Virtue.Matt Stichter - 2007 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (2):183-194.
Theories of Theories of Mind.Peter Carruthers & Peter K. Smith - 1999 - Philosophical Quarterly 49 (194):115-119.

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