Eminent moral philosopher Michael Slote argues that care ethics presents an important challenge to other ethical traditions and that a philosophically developed care ethics should, and can, offer its own comprehensive view of the whole of morality. Taking inspiration from British moral sentimentalism and drawing on recent psychological literature on empathy, he shows that the use of that notion allows care ethics to develop its own sentimentalist account of respect, autonomy, social justice, and deontology. Furthermore, he argues that care (...) ethics gives a more persuasive account of these topics than theories offered by contemporary Kantian liberalism. The most philosophically rich and challenging exploration of the theory and practice of care to date, _The Ethics of Care and Empathy_ also shows the manifold connections that can be drawn between philosophical issues and leading ideas in the fields of psychology, education, and women's studies. (shrink)
Empathic feelings seem to causally influence our moral judgments at least sometimes. But is empathy necessary for our ability to make moral judgments? And is it a good thing if our judgments are based on empathy? This chapter examines the contemporary debate on these issues.
In this paper, my aim is to bring together contemporary psychological literature on emotion regulation and the classical sentimentalism of David Hume and Adam Smith to arrive at a plausible account of empathy's role in explaining patterns of moral judgment. Along the way, I criticize related arguments by Michael Slote, Jesse Prinz, and others.
My initial scope will be limited: starting from a neurobiological standpoint, I will analyse how actions are possibly represented and understood. The main aim of my arguments will be to show that, far from being exclusively dependent upon mentalistic/linguistic abilities, the capacity for understanding others as intentional agents is deeply grounded in the relational nature of action. Action is relational, and the relation holds both between the agent and the object target of the action , as between the agent of (...) the action and his/her observer . Agency constitutes a key issue for the understanding of intersubjectivity and for explaining how individuals can interpret their social world. This account of intersubjectivity, founded on the empirical findings of neuroscientific investigation, will be discussed and put in relation with a classical tenet of phenomenology: empathy. I will provide an 'enlarged' account of empathy that will be defined by means of a new conceptual tool: the shared manifold of intersubjectivity. (shrink)
There is disagreement in the literature about the exact nature of the phenomenon of empathy. There are emotional, cognitive, and conditioning views, applying in varying degrees across species. An adequate description of the ultimate and proximate mechanism can integrate these views. Proximately, the perception of an object's state activates the subject's corresponding representations, which in turn activate somatic and autonomic responses. This mechanism supports basic behaviors that are crucial for the reproductive success of animals living in groups. The Perception-Action (...) Model, together with an understanding of how representations change with experience, can explain the major empirical effects in the literature. It can also predict a variety of empathy disorders. The interaction between the PAM and prefrontal functioning can also explain different levels of empathy across species and age groups. This view can advance our evolutionary understanding of empathy beyond inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism and can explain different levels of empathy across individuals, species, stages of development, and situations. Key Words: altruism; cognitive empathy ; comparative; emotion; emotional contagion; empathy ; evolution; human; perception-action; perspective taking. (shrink)
In this timely and wide-ranging study, Karsten Stueber argues that empathy is epistemically central for our folk-psychological understanding of other agents--that it is something we cannot do without in order to gain understanding of other minds. Setting his argument in the context of contemporary philosophy of mind and the interdisciplinary debate about the nature of our mindreading abilities, Stueber counters objections raised by some in the philosophy of social science and argues that it is time to rehabilitate the (...) class='Hi'>empathy thesis.Empathy, regarded at the beginning of the twentieth century as the fundamental method of gaining knowledge of other minds, has suffered a century of philosophical neglect. Stueber addresses the plausible philosophical misgivings about empathy that have been responsible for its failure to gain widespread philosophical acceptance.Crucial in this context is his defense of the assumption, very much contested in contemporary philosophy of mind, that the notion of rational agency is at the core of folk psychology. Stueber then discusses the contemporary debate between simulation theorists--who defend various forms of the empathy thesis--and theory theorists. In distinguishing between basic and reenactive empathy, he provides a new interpretive framework for the investigation into our mindreading capacities. Finally, he considers epistemic objections to empathy raised by the philosophy of social science that have been insufficiently discussed in contemporary debates. Empathy theorists, Stueber writes, should be prepared to admit that, although empathy can be regarded as the central default mode for understanding other agents, there are certain limitations in its ability to make sense of other agents; and there are supplemental theoretical strategies available to overcome these limitations. (shrink)
The article explores and compares the accounts of empathy found in Lipps, Scheler, Stein and Husserl and argues that the three latter phenomenological thinkers offer a model of empathy, which is not only distinctly different from Lipps’, but which also diverge from the currently dominant models.
The goals of this research were to (1) explore the direct effects of and interactions between magnitude of consequences and various types of proximity - social, psychological, and physical - on the ethical decision-making process and (2) investigate the influence of empathy on the ethical decision-making process. A carpal tunnel syndrome vignette and questionnaire were administered to a sample of human resource management professionals to test the hypothesized relationships. Significant relationships were found for the main effects between magnitude of (...) consequences and principle-based evaluation, cognitive empathy and principle-based evaluation, and empathy and moral intention. Physical proximity moderated the relationships between magnitude of consequences and utilitarian evaluation as well as magnitude of consequences and moral intention. Cognitive empathy moderated the relationships between magnitude of consequences and principle-based evaluation and physical proximity and utilitarian evaluation. Affective empathy marginally moderated the relationship between physical proximity and principle-based evaluation. Future research directions, management implications, and strengths and weaknesses of the research are discussed. (shrink)
Empathy has for a long time, at least since the eighteenth century, been seen as centrally important in relation to our capacity to gain a grasp of the content of other people's minds, and predict and explain what they will think, feel, and do; and in relation to our capacity to respond to others ethically. In addition, empathy is seen as having a central role in aesthetics, in the understanding of our engagement with works of art and with (...) fictional characters. A fuller understanding of empathy is now offered by the interaction of research in science and the humanities. This volume draws together nineteen original chapters by leading researchers across several disciplines, together with an extensive Introduction by the editors. The individual chapters reveal how important it is, in a wide range of fields of enquiry, to bring to bear an understanding of the role of empathy in its various guises. It offers the ideal starting-point for the exploration of this intriguing aspect of human life. (shrink)
_In Perception, Empathy, and Judgment_ Arne Johan Vetlesen focuses on the indispensable role of emotion, especially the faculty of empathy, in morality. He contends that moral conduct is severely threatened once empathy is prevented from taking part in an interplay with cognitive faculties in acts of moral perception and judgment. Drawing on developmental psychology, especially British "object relations" theory, to illuminate the nature and functioning of empathy, Vetlesen shows how moral performance is constituted by a sequence (...) involving perception, judgment, and action, with an interplay between the agent's emotional and cognitive faculties occurring at each stage. In the powerful tradition from Kant to present-day theorists such as Kohlberg, Rawls, and Habermas, reason is privileged over feeling and judgment over perception, in such a way that basic philosophical questions remain unasked. Vetlesen focuses our attention on these questions and challenges the long-standing assertion that emotions are damaging to moral response. In the final chapter he relates his argument to recent feminist critiques that have also castigated moral theorists in the Kantian tradition for their refusal to recognize a role for emotion in morality. While the book's argument is philosophical, its method and scope are interdisciplinary. In addition to critiques of such philosophers as Arendt, MacIntyre, and Habermas, it contains discussions of specific historical, ideological, and sociological factors that may cause "numbing"—selective or broad-ranging, pathological insensitivity—in humans. The Nazis' mass killing of Jews is studied to illuminate these and other relevant empirical aspects of large-scale immoral action. (shrink)
Empathy is a lay term that is becoming increasingly viewed as a unitary function within the field of cognitive neuroscience. In this paper, a selective review of the empathy literature is provided. It is argued from this literature that empathy is not a unitary system but rather a loose collection of partially dissociable neurocognitive systems. In particular, three main divisions can be made: cognitive empathy , motor empathy, and emotional empathy. The two main psychiatric (...) disorders associated with empathic dysfunction are considered: autism and psychopathy. It is argued that individuals with autism show difficulties with cognitive and motor empathy but less clear difficulties with respect to emotional empathy. In contrast, individuals with psychopathy show clear difficulties with a specific form of emotional empathy but no indications of impairment with cognitive and motor empathy. (shrink)
This article makes five main points. Individual human consciousness is formed in the dynamic interrelation of self and other, and therefore is inherently intersubjective. The concrete encounter of self and other fundamentally involves empathy, under- stood as a unique and irreducible kind of intentionality. Empathy is the precondi- tion of the science of consciousness. Human empathy.
Recently, an increasing body of work from sociology, social psychology, and social ontology has been devoted to collective emotions. Rather curiously, however, pressing epistemological and especially normative issues have received almost no attention. In particular, there has been a strange silence on whether one can share emotions with individuals or groups who are not aware of such sharing, or how one may identify this, and eventually identify specific norms of emotional sharing. In this paper, I shall address this set of (...) issues head-on. I will do so by drawing on one of the most elaborate, but rather neglected phenomenological accounts of sociality, namely Edith Stein’s work on communal experiences and her theory of empathy. I wish to show that a suitably amended Steinian account affords us with an intriguing alternative to both phenomenalist and normativist construals of collective emotions. Moreover, I shall argue that it provides a more fine-grained account of the different types of emotional sharing than standard accounts, ranging from face-to-face, or shared, to more robust but less direct, or collective, emotions. Finally, I will propose a tentative answer to the above questions by pointing to non-dyadic or collective forms of empathy. (shrink)
This article poses a challenge to contemporary theories in psychology that portray empathy as a negative force in the moral life. Instead, drawing on alternative psychological and philosophical literature, especially Martha Nussbaum, I argue that empathy is related to the virtue of compassion and therefore crucial for moral action. Evidence for evolutionary anthropological accounts of compassion in early hominins provides additional arguments for its positive value in deep human history. I discuss this work alongside Thomistic notions of practical (...) wisdom, compassion, misericordia, and the importance of reason in the moral life. The tension between “bottom up” accounts of empathy and that according to a theological interpretation of “infused” virtues also needs to be addressed. From a secular perspective, infused virtue is a projection of the ideal moral life, but from a theological perspective, it is a way of understanding how human capacities through the action of grace can reach beyond what seem to be the limits of psychological moral identity. (shrink)
The notion of empathy has been explicated in different ways in the current debate on how to understand others. Whereas defenders of simulation-based approaches claim that empathy involves some kind of isomorphism between the empathizer’s and the target’s mental state, defenders of the phenomenological account vehemently deny this and claim that empathy allows us to directly perceive someone else’s mental states. Although these views are typically presented as being opposed, I argue that at least one version of (...) a simulation-based approach—the account given by de Vignemont and Jacob—is compatible with the direct-perception view. My argument has two parts: My first step is to show that the conflict between these accounts is not—as it seems at first glance—a disagreement on the mechanism by which empathy comes about. Rather, it is due to the fact that their proponents attribute two very different roles to empathy in understanding others. My second step is to introduce Stein’s account of empathy. By not restricting empathy to either one of these two roles, her process model of empathy helps to see how the divergent intuitions that have been brought forward in the current debate could be integrated. (shrink)
Empathy as “Feelingly Grasping” Perhaps the central question concerning empathy is if and if so how it combines aspects of thinking and feeling. Indeed, the intellectual tradition of the past centuries has been marked by a dualism. Roughly speaking, there have been two pathways when it comes to understanding each other: 1) thinking or mind reading and 2) feeling or empathy. Nonetheless, one of the ongoing debates in psychology and philosophy concerns the question whether these two abilities, (...) namely, understanding what the other is thinking and “understanding” what the other is feeling, are separate or not. Most of the authors in this volume consider the cognitive and affective dimensions at work within empathy. Each author does this within and beyond their own field. Coming from the humanities, we propose the following definition for empathy: Empathy is a social feeling that consists in feelingly grasping or retracing the present, future, or past emotional state of the other; thus empathy is also called a vicarious emotion. We would like to highlight two aspects of this definition in particular: 1.) the peculiar position of “grasping” which involves a cognitive dimension and 2.) the social dimensions of relating to the emotions of another human being. (shrink)
Understanding cooperative human behaviour depends on insights into the biological basis of human altruism, as well as into socio-cultural development. In terms of evolutionary theory, kinship and reciprocity are well established as underlying cooperativeness. Reasons will be given suggesting an additional source, the capability of a cognition-based empathy that may have evolved as a by-product of strategic thought. An assessment of the range, the intrinsic limitations, and the conditions for activation of human cooperativeness would profit from a systems approach (...) combining biological and socio-cultural aspects. However, this is not yet the prevailing attitude among contemporary social and biological scientists who often hold prejudiced views of each other's notions. It is therefore worth noticing that the desirable integration of aspects has already been attempted, in remarkable and encouraging ways, in the history of thought on human nature. I will exemplify this with the ideas of the fourteenth century Arab-Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun. He set out to explicate human cooperativeness - "asabiyah" - as having a biological basis in common descent, but being extendable far beyond within social systems, though in a relatively unstable and attenuated fashion. He combined psychological and material factors in a dynamical theory of the rise and decline of political rulership, and related general social phenomena to basic features of human behaviour influenced by kinship, expectation of reciprocity, and empathic emotions. -/- . (shrink)
Two correlational studies tested whether personality differences in empathy and perspective taking differentially relate to disapproval of unethical negotiation strategies, such as lies and bribes. Across both studies, empathy, but not perspective taking, discouraged attacking opponents' networks, misrepresentation, inappropriate information gathering, and feigning emotions to manipulate opponents. These results suggest that unethical bargaining is more likely to be deterred by empathy than by perspective taking. Study 2 also tested whether individual differences in guilt proneness and shame proneness (...) inhibited the endorsement of unethical bargaining tactics. Guilt proneness predicted disapproval of false promises and misrepresentation. Empathy did not predict disapproval of false promises when guilt proneness was included in the analysis. The comparatively private nature of the sin of false promises suggests that private ethical breaches are more likely to be deterred by anticipated guilt, while ethical breaches with clear interpersonal consequences are more likely to be deterred by empathy. (shrink)
The objective of this article is to review extant empirical studies of empathy in narrative reading in light of (i) contemporary literary theory, and (ii) neuroscientific studies of empathy, and to discuss how a closer interplay between neuroscience and literary studies may enhance our understanding of empathy in narrative reading. An introduction to some of the philosophical roots of empathy is followed by tracing its application in contemporary literary theory, in which scholars have pursued empathy (...) with varying degrees of conceptual precision, often within the context of embodied/enactive cognition. The presentation of empirical literary studies of empathy is subsequently contextualized by an overview of psychological and neuroscientific aspects of empathy. Highlighting points of convergence and divergence, the discussion illustrates how findings of empirical literary studies align with recent neuroscientific research. The article concludes with some prospects for future empirical research, suggesting that digitization may contribute to advancing the scientific knowledge of empathy in narrative reading. (shrink)
In professional medical ethics, the physician traditionally is obliged to fulfil specific duties as well as to embody a responsible and trustworthy personality. In the public discussion, different concepts are suggested to describe the desired underlying attitude of physicians. In this article, one of them—empathy—is presented in an interpretation that is meant to depicture (together with the two additional concepts compassion and care) this attitude. Therefore empathy in the clinical context is defined as the adequate understanding of the (...) inner processes of the patient concerning his health-related problems. Adequacy is scrutinized on behalf of the emotional and subjective involvement of he physician, and on the necessary dependence on medical—moral—goals. In the present interpretation, empathy alone is no guarantee of the right moral attitude, but a necessary instrumental skill in order to perceive and treat a patient as an individual person. The concepts of compassion and care that will be discussed in two forthcoming articles are necessary parts to describe the desired moral attitude of the physician more completely. (shrink)
I will discuss Stein’s first major philosophical work, On the Problem of Empathy. I’ll first present some of the background context to the composition of this work and then discuss some of the themes of the work that I find intriguing.
A recent version of the view that aesthetic experience is based in empathy as inner imitation explains aesthetic experience as the automatic simulation of actions, emotions, and bodily sensations depicted in an artwork by motor neurons in the brain. Criticizing the simulation theory for committing to an erroneous concept of empathy and failing to distinguish regular from aesthetic experiences of art, I advance an alternative, dynamic approach and claim that aesthetic experience is enacted and skillful, based in the (...) recognition of others’ experiences as distinct from one’s own. In combining insights from mainly psychology, phenomenology, and cognitive science, the dynamic approach aims to explain the emergence of aesthetic experience in terms of the reciprocal interaction between viewer and artwork. I argue that aesthetic experience emerges by participatory sense-making and revolves around movement as a means for creating meaning. While entrainment merely plays a preparatory part in this, aesthetic engagement constitutes the phenomenological side of coupling to an artwork and provides the context for exploration, and eventually for moving, seeing, and feeling with art. I submit that aesthetic experience emerges from bodily and emotional engagement with works of art via the complementary processes of the perception–action and motion–emotion loops. The former involves the embodied visual exploration of an artwork in physical space, and progressively structures and organizes visual experience by way of perceptual feedback from body movements made in response to the artwork. The latter concerns the movement qualities and shapes of implicit and explicit bodily responses to an artwork that cue emotion and thereby modulate over-all affect and attitude. The two processes cause the viewer to bodily and emotionally move with and be moved by individual works of art, and consequently to recognize another psychological orientation than her own, which explains how art can cause feelings of insight or awe and disclose aspects of life that are unfamiliar or novel to the viewer. (shrink)
Current discussions on social cognition, empathy, and interpersonal understanding are largely built on the question of how we recognize and access particular mental states of others. Mental states have been treated as temporally individuated, momentary or temporally narrow unities that can be grasped at one go. Drawing on the phenomenological tradition—on Stein and Husserl in particular—I will problematize this approach, and argue that the other’s experiential states can appear meaningful to us only they are viewed in connection with further, (...) non-simultaneous experiential states of the other. I will focus on the temporal structure of mental states which has received less attention in the available literature. Building a comparison between empathy and music perception, I will argue that approaching the problem of other minds from the point of view of particular mental states is like considering music from the point of view of particular notes. (shrink)
This paper seeks to illuminate the nature of empathy by reflecting upon the phenomenology of depression. I propose that depression involves alteration of an aspect of experience that is seldom reflected upon or discussed, thus making it hard to understand. This alteration involves impairment or loss of a capacity for interpersonal relatedness that mutual empathy depends upon. The sufferer thus feels cut off from other people, and may remark on their indifference, hostility or inability to understand. Drawing upon (...) the example of depression, I argue that empathy is not principally a matter of ‘simulating’ another person’s experience. It is better conceived of as a perception-like exploration of others’ experiences that develops progressively through certain styles of interpersonal interaction. (shrink)
The current debates dealing with empathy, social cognition, and the problem of other minds widely accept the assumption that, whereas we can directly perceive the other’s body, certain additional mental operations are needed in order to access the contents of the other’s mind. Body-perception has, in other words, been understood as something that merely mediates our experience of other minds and requires no philosophical analysis in itself. The available accounts have accordingly seen their main task as pinpointing the operations (...) and mechanisms that enable us to move beyond body-perception—and here acts such as inference, simulation, and projection have usually been the main candidates. This whole setting, however, seems to rely on a somewhat Cartesian assumption, according to which body-perception fundamentally amounts to the perception of a material thing, res extensa, starting from which we then strive to grasp the other as a res cogitans. Insofar as one begins with the question of how we can discover and understand mindedness in things that cannot be directly perceived as minded, the Cartesian setting is already taken for granted—and this is, in fact, exactly what most of the available proposals seem to be doing. From a phenomenological point of view, the Cartesian setting is untenable and seriously misleads the whole debate. The present article reassesses the role and status of body-perception in empathy. Making use of the Husserlian theory of expressivity in particular, the article engages a phenomenological framework of analysis, challenges the above-mentioned assumption concerning the nature of body-perception, and argues for the immediate nature of empathy. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
In his recent work, Michael Slote argues that empathy is what Hutcheson called 'the moral sense'. The most innovative argument he offers for this claim is that our empathic reactions play a crucial role in fixing the reference of moral terms. I argue that Slote's bold proposal faces all the main problems of analytical naturalism, as well as some of its own. I suggest that empathy may nevertheless play a more modest and indirect role in acquiring moral knowledge.
This article takes Heidegger's design distinctions for human being [Dasein] including affectivity, understanding, and speech, and, using these distinctions, generates a Heideggerian definition of empathy [Einfuehlung]. This article distinguishes empathic receptivity, empathic understanding, empathic interpretation, and empathic speech (or responsiveness). It also looks at characteristic breakdowns.
In this paper, we conceptually explore the role of empathy as a connectedness organising mechanism. We expand ideas underlying positive organisational scholarship and examine leading-edge studies from neuroscience and quantum physics that give support to our claims. The perspective we propose has profound implications regarding how we organise and how we manage. First, we argue that empathy enhances connectedness through the unconscious sharing of neuro-pathways that dissolves the barriers between self and other. This sharing encourages the integration of (...) affective and cognitive consciousness which facilitates the ability to find common ground for solution building. Second, empathy enhances connectedness through altruistic action. In giving to others, feelings of joy and harmony are activated. This in turn allows personal freedom to be enriched and transcendence from the rational ego-self is reduced to develop a more expansive, integrated and enlightened state underlying connectedness. Finally, empathy enhances connectedness which results in sharing the quantum field of coherence where there is little separation between self and other. This means living beyond self-interest in a coherent world based upon interdependent wholeness rather than atomization and separation. Empathy allows us to find that state of coherent connectedness. (shrink)
In recent years, there has been a great deal of controversy in the philosophy of mind, developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience both about how to conceptualize empathy and about the connections between empathy and interpersonal understanding. Ideally, we would first establish a consensus about how to conceptualize empathy, and then analyze the potential contribution of empathy to interpersonal understanding. However, it is not at all clear that such a consensus will soon be forthcoming, given that different (...) people have fundamentally conflicting intuitions about the concept of empathy. Thus, instead of trying to resolve this controversy, I will try to show that a fair amount of consensus is within reach about how empathy can be a source of interpersonal understanding even in the absence of a consensus about how to conceptualize empathy. As we shall see, the main controversy concerns a few phenomena that some researchers view as necessary conditions of empathy, but which others view either as merely characteristic features or as consequences of empathy. My strategy will be to try to show how empathy can generate interpersonal understanding by virtue of these phenomena—regardless of whether one chooses to conceptualize them as necessary conditions of empathy. (shrink)
Illuminated by the writings of Edith Stein, this paper presents a model of empathy as a very particular intersubjective understanding. This is commonly a view absent from psychology literature. For Stein, empathy is the experience of experientially and directly knowing another person’s experience, as it unfolds in the present, together with the awareness of the ‘otherness’ of that experience. It can be conceptually distinguished, in terms of process and experience, from current models that propose that empathic understandings are (...) ‘intellectual’ experiences or sympathetic experiences. As such, she provides an additional or alternative aspect to understanding other people’s experiences. Our paper provides a summary of Stein’s key analytic claims about three key facets of empathy. Her views are discussed in the light of debates relevant for contemporary psychology and social cognition. (shrink)
In phenomenology, theories of empathy are intimately connected with the question of how it is possible to have insight into the mind of the other person. In this article, the author wants to show why it is self-evident for us that the other person is having experiences. In order to do so, it is not enough to discuss the phenomenon of empathy with a starting point in the already constituted adult person; instead the article presents a genetic approach (...) to human development. The author thus contrasts Edith Stein’s discussion of Einfühlung (empathy), which takes its starting point in the experience of the grown-up, with Max Scheler’s discussion of Einsfühlung (feeling of oneness), where the relation between mother and infant is taken as one example. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s discussion of the world of the infant is read as one way of developing Scheler’s theory of intersubjectivity and of Einsfühlung. This genetic approach is developed further into a phenomenological analysis of the experience of the fetus and of birth. The author argues that the analysis of the fetus highlights the distinction between knowing that another person is having experiences, and knowing the specific content of the other person’s experiences. The fetus does not experience different persons, but has a pre-subjective experience of life that includes what is later experienced as belonging to “another.” Later in life, the experience of empathy, as an experience of a specific content, can be developed from this experience. In this way empathy and Einsfühlung can be understood as complementary rather than as competing phenomena. (shrink)
The concept of empathy has received much attention from philosophers and also from both cognitive and social psychologists. It has, however, been given widely conflicting definitions, with some taking it primarily as an epistemological notion and others as a social one. Recently, empathy has been closely associated with the simulationist approach to social cognition and, as such, it might be thought that the concept’s utility stands or falls with that of simulation itself. I suggest that this is a (...) mistake. Approaching the question of what empathy is via the question of what it is for, I claim that empathy plays a distinctive epistemological role: it alone allows us to know how others feel. This is independent of the plausibility of simulationism more generally. With this in view I propose an inclusive definition of empathy, one likely consequence of which is that empathy is not a natural kind. It follows that, pace a number of empathy researchers, certain experimental paradigms tell us not about the nature of empathy but about certain ways in which empathy can be achieved. I end by briefly speculating that empathy, so conceived, may also play a distinctive social role, enabling what I term ‘transparent fellow-feeling’. (shrink)
This paper presents an account of empathy as the form of experience directed at embodied unities of expressive movement. After outlining the key differences between simulation theory and the phenomenological approach to empathy, the paper argues that while the phenomenological approach is closer to respecting a necessary constitutional asymmetry between first-personal and second-personal senses of embodiment, it still presupposes a general concept of embodiment that ends up being problematic. A different account is proposed that is neutral on the (...) explanatory role of the first-person sense of embodiment, which leads to an emphasis on the transformative nature of empathy and a broadening of the scope of possible targets of empathic awareness. (shrink)
BackgroundThe academic and medical literature highlights the positive effects of empathy for patient care. Yet, very little attention has been given to the impact of the requirement for empathy on the physicians themselves and on their emotional wellbeing.DiscussionThe medical profession requires doctors to be both clinically competent and empathetic towards the patients. In practice, accommodating both requirements can be difficult for physicians. The image of the technically skilful, rational, and emotionally detached doctor dominates the profession, and inhibits physicians (...) from engaging emotionally with their patients and their own feelings, which forms the basis for empathy. This inhibition has a negative impact not only on the patients but also on the physicians. The expression of emotions in medical practice is perceived as unprofessional and many doctors learn to supress and ignore their feelings. When facing stressful situations, these physicians are more likely to suffer from depression and burnout than those who engage with and reflect on their feelings. Physicians should be supported in their emotional work, which will help them develop empathy. Methods could include questionnaires that aid self-reflection, and discussion groups with peers and supervisors on emotional experiences. Yet, in order for these methods to work, the negative image associated with the expression of emotions should be questioned. Also, the work conditions of physicians should improve to allow them to make use of these tools.SummaryEmpathy should not only be expected from doctors but should be actively promoted, assisted and cultivated in the medical profession. (shrink)
I draw upon the conceptual resources of the extended mind thesis to analyze empathy and interpersonal understanding. Against the dominant mentalistic paradigm, I argue that empathy is fundamentally an extended bodily activity and that much of our social understanding happens outside of the head. First, I look at how the two dominant models of interpersonal understanding, theory theory and simulation theory, portray the cognitive link between folk psychology and empathy. Next, I challenge their internalist orthodoxy and offer (...) an alternative "extended" characterization of empathy. In support of this characterization, I analyze some narratives of individuals with Moebius syndrome, a kind of expressive deficit resulting from bilateral facial paralysis. I conclude by discussing how a Zen Buddhist ethics of responsiveness is helpful for articulating the practical significance of an extended, body-based account of empathy. (shrink)
The recent discovery of so-called “mirror-neurons” in monkeys and a corresponding mirroring “system” in humans has provoked wide endorsement of the claim that humans understand a variety of observed actions, somatic sensations, and emotions via a kind of direct representation of those actions, sensations, and emotions. Philosophical efforts to assess the import of such “mirrored understanding” have typically focused on how that understanding might be brought to bear on theories of mindreading, and usually in cases of action. By contrast, this (...) paper assesses mirrored understanding in cases of emotion and its import for theories of empathy and especially empathy in ethical contexts. In particular, this paper argues that the mirrored understanding claim is ambiguous and ultimately misleading when applied to emotion, partly because mirroring proponents fail to appreciate the way in which empathy might serve a distinct normative function in our judgments of what other people feel. The paper thus concludes with a call to revise the mirrored understanding claim, whether in neuroscience, psychology, or philosophy. (shrink)
The discovery of mirror neurons in both primates and humans has led to an enormous amount of research and speculation as to how conscious beings are able to interact so effortlessly among one another. Mirror neurons might provide an embodied basis for passive synthesis and the eventual process of further communalization through empathy, as envisioned by Edmund Husserl. I consider the possibility of a phenomenological and scientific investigation of laughter as a point of connection that might in the future (...) bridge the gap Husserl feared had grown too expansive between the worlds of science and philosophy. Part I will describe some implications of the discovery of mirror neurons. Part II will address Husserl’s concept of embodiment as it relates to neuroscience and empathy. Part III will be a primer to investigating laughter phenomenologically. Part IV will be a continuation of the study of laughter and empathy as possible elements helpful in broadening the scope of what Husserl calls the Life-World. (shrink)
It is tempting to assume that being a moral creature requires the capacity to attribute mental states to others, because a creature cannot be moral unless she is capable of comprehending how her actions can have an impact on the well-being of those around her. If this assumption were true, then mere behaviour readers could never qualify as moral, for they are incapable of conceptualising mental states and attributing them to others. In this paper, I argue against such an assumption (...) by discussing the specific case of empathy. I present a characterisation of empathy that would not require an ability to attribute mental states to others, but would nevertheless allow the creature who possessed it to qualify as a moral being. Provided certain conditions are met, a behaviour reader could be motivated to act by this form of empathy, and this means that behaviour readers could be moral. The case for animal morality, I shall argue, is therefore independent of the case for animal mindreading. (shrink)
I argue that deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a bad approach for incarcerated psychopaths for two reasons. First, given what we know about psychopathy, empathy, and DBS, it is unlikely to function as an effective treatment for the moral problems that characterize psychopathy. Second, considerations of neurodiversity speak against seeing psychopathy as a mental illness in the first place.
This article criticizes what it calls perspectival thought experiments, which require subjects to mentally simulate a perspective before making judgments from within it. Examples include Judith Thomson's violinist analogy, Philippa Foot's trolley problem, and Bernard Williams's Jim case. The article argues that advances in the philosophical and psychological study of empathy suggest that the simulative capacities required by perspectival thought experiments are all but impossible. These thought experiments require agents to consciously simulate necessarily unconscious features of subjectivity. To complete (...) these experiments subjects must deploy theory-theoretical frameworks to predict what they think they would do. These outputs, however, systematically mislead subjects and are highly prone to error. They are of negligible probative value, and this bodes poorly for their continued use. The article ends with two suggestions. First, many thought experiments are not problematically perspectival. Second, it should be possible to carry out “in-their-shoes” perspectival thought experiments by off-loading simulations onto virtual environments into which philosophers place subjects. (shrink)
In moral psychology, it has long been argued that empathy is a necessary capacity of both properly developing moral agents and developed moral agency . This view stands in tension with the belief that some individuals diagnosed with autism—which is typically characterized as a deficiency in social reciprocity —are moral agents. In this paper we propose to explore this tension and perhaps trouble how we commonly see those with autism. To make this task manageable, we will consider whether high (...) functioning individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder are capable of empathetic responses. If they are, then they possess a capacity that, on the view above, is required for moral agency. If they are not so capable, and yet sometimes engage in moral behaviour, this casts some doubt on the claim that empathy is required for moral agency. This second possibility will necessitate an exploration of the capacity of some individuals with autism to engage in moral behaviour, giving us further grounds to re-see these individuals as moral agents. (shrink)
In recent years, some simulation theorists have claimed that the discovery of mirror neurons provides empirical support for the position that mind reading is, at some basic level, simulation. The purpose of this essay is to question that claim. I begin by providing brief context for the current mind reading debate and then developing an influential simulationist account of mind reading. I then draw on the works of Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein to develop an alternative, phenomenological account. In conclusion, (...) I offer multiple objections against simulation theory and argue that the empirical evidence mirror neurons offer us does not necessarily support the view that empathy is simulation. (shrink)
Leadership has become a more popular term than management, even though it is understood that both phenomena represent important organizational behaviors. This paper focuses on empathy in leadership, and presents the findings of a study conducted among business students over the course of 3 years. Finding that empathy consistently ranked lowest in the ratings, the researchers set out to discover the driving motives behind this invariable trend, and conducted a second study to obtain opinions about possible underlying factors. (...) The paper presents the findings of both studies, as well as literature reviews on the differences between management and leadership, a historical overview of leadership, a reflection of 21st century leadership, the ongoing debate on the effects of corporate psychopaths on ethical performance, and scholars’ perception on empathy in corporate leadership. The findings indicate the need for a paradigm shift in corporations as well as business schools in regards to leaders’ required skills, and suggest a proactive approach from business faculty to change the current paradigm. (shrink)
The suffering of nonhuman animals has become a noted factor in deciding public policy and legislative change. Yet, despite this growing concern, skepticism toward such suffering is still surprisingly common. This paper analyzes the merits of the skeptical approach, both in its moderate and extreme forms. In the first part it is claimed that the type of criterion for verification concerning the mental states of other animals posed by skepticism is overly (and, in the case of extreme skepticism, illogically) demanding. (...) Resting on Wittgenstein and Husserl, it is argued that skepticism relies on a misguided epistemology and, thus, that key questions posed by it face the risk of absurdity. In the second part of the paper it is suggested that, instead of skepticism, empathy together with intersubjectivity be adopted. Edith Stein’s take on empathy, along with contemporary findings, are explored, and the claim is made that it is only via these two methods of understanding that the suffering of nonhuman animals can be perceived. (shrink)
Empathy is generally regarded as important and positive. However, descriptions of empathy are often inadequate and deceptive. Furthermore, there is a widespread lack of critical attention to such deficiencies. This critical review of the medical discourse of empathy shows that tendencies to evade and misrepresent the understanding subject are common. The understanding subject’s contributions to the empathic process are often neglected or described as something that can and should be avoided or controlled. Furthermore, the intrinsic and closely (...) interwoven relationship between medical understanding and empathy is generally not explored. Instead of challenging objectivistic and instrumental ideals, the medical discourse of empathy tends to accommodate to inadequate ideals of objectivity and instrumentalism. Thus, important aspects of physician’s rationality, understanding, and morality are neglected and important opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and critique are forfeited. Both the critical and constructive parts of this paper are heavily inspired by philosophical hermeneutic insights, e.g. that physician’s empathy is always historically situated and part of a moral commitment. At the end of this paper, an alternative description of empathy - i.e. appropriate understanding of another human being - is outlined to facilitate the inclusion of hermeneutic insights and accentuate the inherent relationship between empathy and morality. (shrink)
Empathy has become a hot topic in philosophy and more generally, but its many uses haven’t yet been recognized. Empathy has epistemological applications beyond its ability to put us directly in contact with the minds of others, and its role in ethics has been underestimated: it can, for example, help the present-day sentimentalist make sense of Francis Hutcheson’s idea of a moral sense. Most notably, perhaps, empathy also plays an important role in speech acts that speech act (...) theorists have completely ignored: for example, felicitous assertion and questioning both depend on the empathic conveying of emotion. (shrink)
This paper presents a phenomenological account of empathy inspired by the proposal put forward by Edith Stein in her book On the Problem of Empathy, published originally 1917. By way of explicating Stein’s views, the paper aims to present a characterization of empathy that is in some aspects similar to, but yet essentially different from contemporary simulationist theories of empathy. An attempt is made to show that Stein’s proposal articulates the essential ingredients and steps involved in (...)empathy and that her proposal can be made even more comprehensive and elucidating by stressing the emotional aspect of the empathy process. Empathy, according to such a phenomenological proposal, is to be understood as a perceptual-imaginative feeling towards and with the other person’s experiences made possible by affective bodily schemas and being enhanced by a personal concern for her. To experience empathy does not necessarily or only mean to experience the same type of feeling as the target does; it means feeling alongside the feeling of the target in imagining and explicating a rich understanding of the experiences of the very person one is facing. (shrink)
If Sam empathizes with Maria, then it is true of Sam that (1) Sam is aware of Maria's emotion, and (2) Sam ‘feels in tune’ with Maria. On what I call the transparency conception of how they interact when instantiated, I argue that these two conditions are collectively necessary and sufficient for empathy. I first clarify the ‘awareness’ and ‘feeling in tune’ conditions, and go on to examine different candidate models that explain the manner in which these two conditions (...) might come to be concomitantly instantiated in a subject. I dismiss what I call the parallel and oscillation models for not satisfying the transparency condition, i.e. for failing to capture that, if Sam empathizes with Maria, then Sam's own emotional experience towards the object of Maria's emotion has to be mediated by Maria's own emotional experience. I conclude in favour the fusion model as the only model capable of satisfying the transparency condition, and I argue that the suggested proposal illuminates the difference between it and other ways in which we understand the emotions of others. Finally, I expand and clarify the conception of empathy as transparency through responses to obvious objections that the view raises. Key Words: empathy • emotion • philosophy • psychology • simulation. (shrink)