To test whether emotional empathy is linked to altered perceptions of self in relation to other and/or context, participants read one of two tragic news stories and then completed a self-report empathymeasure, as well as an abridged version of Hood’s Mysticism scale either before or after the article. Exposure to a needy other in the story tended to result in greater self-reported mystical experience. Men with a history of mystical experience reported more empathy, but the (...) latter was disconnected from on-line reports of mystical experience. Women’s history of mystical experience did not predict empathic responding overall, but their reported empathy was linked to on-line experiences of oneness, absorption into something larger, and space-time distortion with imputed religious significance. Directions for future research, including the possible facilitative role of oxytocin, are discussed. (shrink)
Important features of the self-concept can be located outside of the individual and inside close or related others. The authors use this insight to reinterpret data previously said to support the empathy-altruism model of helping, which asserts that empathic concern for another results in selflessness and true altruism. That is, they argue that the conditions that lead to empathic concern also lead to a greater sense of self-other overlap, raising the possibility that helping under these conditions is not selfless (...) but is also directed toward the self. In 3 studies, the impact of empathic concern on willingness to help was eliminated when oneness--a measure of perceived self-other overlap--was considered. Path analyses revealed further that empathic concern increased helping only through its relation to perceived oneness, thereby throwing the empathy-altruism model into question. The authors suggest that empathic concern affects helping primarily as an emotional signal of oneness. (shrink)
In the heat of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln made a speech in which he referred sympathetically to the Southern rebels. A member of the audience lambasted him for wanting to treat his enemies kindly when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. Lincoln's answer: "Why, madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" Harshness and cruelty were to be banished from the moral imagination of the nation he was trying to save. The late (...) Jack Maple, a famously flamboyant but phenomenally effective former deputy commissioner of the NYPD, wrote that "the more information a detective has, the more creative, authoritative and effective he or she can be." Under attack in 2001, and then at war in Iraq in 2003, American law enforcement, intelligence and military really didn't have much information at first. They rounded up the usual suspects, but didn't know what usual meant. So they smacked people around, and that was always a bad idea, as Maple said: "Forget that smacking somebody around is illegal and just plain wrong, it's also the quickest way to ruin the chances of getting a statement of any kind." Professional interrogators talk about building empathy and dependence. Maple would get down on his knees and pray with a suspect if he thought that would work. But the best technique? "If you can get them to laugh, you'll get a statement. That's always true." Internal CIA documents reveal that empathy is also likely what got Abu Zubaydah to reveal how Al Qaeda planned 9/11 and its other operations. His torture brought nothing of real value, only the moral demeaning of his tormentors.... (shrink)
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.
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.
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)
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)
I propose a way of understanding empathy on which it does not necessarily involve any-thing like thinking oneself into another’s shoes, or any imagining at all. Briefly, the empa-thizer uses an aspect of her own mental state as a sample, expressed by means of a phenomenal concept, to understand the other person. This account does a better job of explaining the connection between empathetic experiences and the objects of empathy than most traditional ones do. And it helps to (...) clarify the relations among different varieties of empathy and empathy-like experiences, including empathy with fictional characters. -/- . (shrink)
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)
This paper presents a new, third-personal account of empathy that characterizes empathy as being sensitive to others’ concerns as opposed to remaining stuck in one’s egocentric perspective on the world. The paper also demonstrates why this account is preferable to its two main rivals, namely the simulation theory of empathy, and the direct perception theory of empathy.
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)
Fitelson (1999) demonstrates that the validity of various arguments within Bayesian confirmation theory depends on which confirmation measure is adopted. The present paper adds to the results set out in Fitelson (1999), expanding on them in two principal respects. First, it considers more confirmation measures. Second, it shows that there are important arguments within Bayesian confirmation theory and that there is no confirmation measure that renders them all valid. Finally, the paper reviews the ramifications that this "strengthened problem (...) of measure sensitivity" has for Bayesian confirmation theory and discusses whether it points at pluralism about notions of confirmation. (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.
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)
The primary aim of this essay is to investigate modalities of resistance to sexual violence. It begins from the observation that the nature of what we understand ourselves to be resisting—that is, how we define the scope, content, and causes of sexual violence—will have profound implications for how we are able to resist. I critically engage one model of resistance to sexual violence: feminist philosophical scholarship on self-defense, highlighting several shortcomings in how the feminist self-defense discourse inadvertently frames sexual violence. (...) Holding these criticisms in mind, I expand the landscape of resistance to sexual violence by considering the new possibilities that empathy might offer. The work of two contemporary women of color feminists—Roxane Gay and Tarana Burke—launches further exploration of empathy’s alternative modes of resistance. By focusing on empathy between survivors of sexual violence, we can expand our understanding of the possibilities of resistance by redistributing and broadening our attention in three main ways: from action to affect and attitude, from a spatially and temporally limited event to something more expansive, and from the individual through the interpersonal to the structural. (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.
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)
I argue that prioritarianism cannot be assessed in abstraction from an account of the measure of utility. Rather, the soundness of this view crucially depends on what counts as a greater, lesser, or equal increase in a person’s utility. In particular, prioritarianism cannot accommodate a normatively compelling measure of utility that is captured by the axioms of John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern’s expected utility theory. Nor can it accommodate a plausible and elegant generalization of this theory that (...) has been offered in response to challenges to von Neumann and Morgenstern. This is, I think, a theoretically interesting and unexpected source of difficulty for prioritarianism, which I explore in this article. (shrink)
Virtue ethics has often been regarded as complementary or laissez-faire ethics in solving business problems. This paper seeks conceptual and methodological improvements by developing a virtue character scale that will enable assessment of the link between organizational level virtue and organizational performance, financial or non-financial. Based upon three theoretical assumptions, multiple studies were conducted; the content analysis of 158 Fortune Global 500 firms ethical values and a survey of 2548 customers and employees. Six dimensions of organizational virtue (Integrity, Empathy, (...) Warmth, Courage, Conscientiousness and Zeal) are identified through confirmatory factor analysis, and validated against satisfaction measure. Strategic implications of virtue characters are discussed. (shrink)
This paper is devoted to the study of the emotions in Edith Stein’s early work On the Problem of Empathy. After presenting her work embedded in the tradition of the early phenomenology of the emotions, I shall elaborate the four dimensions of the emotional experience according to this authoress, the link between emotions and values and the phenomenon of the living body. I argue that Stein’s account on empathy remains incomplete as long as we ignore the complex phenomenology (...) of emotions underlying her work. (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)
Individual differences in ethical ideology are believed to play a key role in ethical decision making. Forsyths (1980) Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ) is designed to measure ethical ideology along two dimensions, relativism and idealism. This study extends the work of Forsyth by examining the construct validity of the EPQ. Confirmatory factor analyses conducted with independent samples indicated three factors – idealism, relativism, and veracity – account for the relationships among EPQ items. In order to provide further evidence of the (...) instruments nomological and convergent validity, correlations among the EPQ subscales, dogmatism, empathy, and individual differences in the use of moral rationales were examined. The relationship between EPQ measures of idealism and moral judgments demonstrated modest predictive validity, but the appreciably weaker influence of relativism and the emergence of a veracity factor raise questions about the utility of the EPQ typology. (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)
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)
_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)
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)
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.
In a recent article, Meghan Griffith (American Philosophical Quarterly 47:43–56, 2010) argues that agent-causal libertarian theories are immune to the problem of luck but that event-causal theories succumb to this problem. In making her case against the event-causal theories, she focuses on Robert Kane’s event-causal theory. I provide a brief account of the central elements of Kane’s theory and I explain Griffith’s critique of it. I argue that Griffith’s criticisms fail. In doing so, I note some important (...) respects in which Kane’s view is unclear and I suggest a plausible way of reading Kane that makes his theory immune to Griffith’s objections. (shrink)
A prevailing view in moral psychology holds that empathy and sympathy play key roles in morality and in prosocial and altruistic actions. Recently, Jesse Prinz (2011a, 2011b) has challenged this view and has argued that empathy does not play a foundational or causal role in morality. He suggests that in fact the presence of empathetic emotions is harmful to morality. Prinz rejects all theories that connect empathy and morality as a constitutional, epistemological, developmental, motivational, or normative necessity. (...) I consider two of Prinz’s theses: the thesis that empathy is not necessary for moral development, and the thesis that empathy should be avoided as a guide for morality. Based on recent research in moral psychology, I argue that empathy plays a crucial role in development of moral agency. I also argue that empathy is desirable as a moral emotion. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
It is commonly suggested that empathy is a morally important quality to possess and that a failure to properly empathize with others is a kind of moral failure. This suggestion assumes that empathy involves caring for others’ well-being. Skeptics challenge the moral importance of empathy by arguing that empathy is neither necessary nor sufficient to care for others’ well-being. This challenge is misguided. Although some forms of empathy may not be morally important, empathy with (...) another’s basic well-being concerns is both necessary and sufficient to care for another’s well-being, provided that one’s empathy is both cognitive and affective. I further defend the idea that empathy of this form is a moral virtue. In doing so, I address three challenges to empathy’s status as a virtue: (1) that empathy is unnecessary for being ethical, (2) that it is not useful for promoting ethical behavior, and (3) that an empathetic person can lack other traits central to being virtuous, such as being motivated by the moral good and being disposed to do virtuous things whenever appropriate opportunities arise. I argue that these challenges are mistaken. (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)
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)
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)
My aim in this paper is to make use of Edith Stein’s phenomenological analyses of empathy, emotion, and personhood to clarify and critically assess the recent suggestion by Axel Honneth that a basic form of recognition is affective in nature. I will begin by considering Honneth’s own presentation of this claim in his discussion of the role of affect in recognitive gestures, as well as in his notion of ‘elementary recognition,’ arguing that while his account contains much of value (...) it also generates problems. On the basis of this analysis, I will try to show that Stein’s account of empathy demarcates an elementary form of recognition in a less problematic fashion than does Honneth’s own treatment of this issue. I will then spell out the consequences of this move for the emotional recognition thesis, arguing that Stein’s treatment lends it further credence, before ending with some remarks on the connection between recognition and emotional personality. (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)
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)
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)
Next SectionAn attempt to resolve the controversy regarding the solution of the Sleeping Beauty Problem in the framework of the Many-Worlds Interpretation led to a new controversy regarding the Quantum Sleeping Beauty Problem. We apply the concept of a measure of existence of a world and reach the solution known as ‘thirder’ solution which differs from Peter Lewis’s ‘halfer’ assertion. We argue that this method provides a simple and powerful tool for analysing rational decision theory problems.
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)
Several quantitative studies (e.g. Kidd & Castano, 2013a; Djikic et al., 2013) have shown a positive correlation between literary reading and empathy. However, the literary nature of the stimuli used in these studies has not been defined at a more detailed, stylistic level. In order to explore the stylistic underpinnings of the hypothesized link between literariness and empathy, we conducted a qualitative experiment in which the degree of stylistic foregrounding was manipulated. Subjects (N = 37) read versions of (...) Katherine Mansfield's 'The Fly', a short story rich in foregrounding, while marking striking and evocative passages of their choosing. Afterwards, they were asked to select three markings and elaborate on their experiences in writing. One group read the original story, while the other read a 'non-literary' version, produced by an established author of suspense fiction for young adults, where stylistic foregrounding was reduced. We found that the non-literary version elicited significantly more (p < 0.05) explicitly empathic responses than the original story. This finding stands in contradiction to widely accepted assumptions in recent research, but can be assimilated in alternative models of literariness and affect in literary reading (e.g. Cupchik et al., 1998). We present an analysis of the data with a view to offering more than one interpretation of the observed effects of stylistic foregrounding. (shrink)