Adam Smith’s account of sympathy or ‘fellow feeling’ has recently become exceedingly popular. It has been used as an antecedent of the concept of simulation: understanding, or attributing mental states to, other people by means of simulating them. It has also been singled out as the first correct account of empathy. Finally, to make things even more complicated, some of Smith’s examples for sympathy or ‘fellow feeling’ have been used as the earliest expression of emotional contagion. The aim (...) of the paper is to suggest a new interpretation of Smith’s concept of sympathy and point out that on this interpretation some of the contemporary uses of this concept, as a precursor of simulation and empathy, are misleading. My main claim is that Smith's concept of sympathy, unlike simulation and empathy, does not imply any correspondence between the mental states of the sympathizer and of the person she is sympathizing with. (shrink)
This paper shows that even if the mental states of non-human animals lack phenomenological properties, as some accounts of mental-state consciousness imply, this need not prevent those states from being appropriate objects of sympathy and moral concern. The paper argues that the most basic form of mental (as opposed to biological) harm lies in the existence of thwarted agency, or thwarted desire, rather than in anything phenomenological.
Hume’s view that the object of moral feeling is a natural passion, motivating action, causes problems for justice. There is apparently no appropriate natural motive, whilst, if there were, its “partiality” would unfit it to ground the requisite impartial approval. We offer a critique of such solutions as that the missing non-moral motive is enlightened self-interest, or that it is feigned, or that it consists in a just disposition. We reject Cohon’s postulation of a moral motive for just acts, and (...) also Harris’s attempt to dispense with motive as the source of their merit, by invoking extensive sympathy, and citing their beneficial societal consequences. These solutions assume that, if Hume remains a virtue ethicist, the natural virtues supply the paradigm. Taylor claims that a revolution in motivational psychology follows the inauguration of the artificial convention of justice, remoulding the natural virtues. This solution founders, we argue, upon unresolved contradictions besetting even these virtues. (shrink)
My aim, in this chapter, is to outline the key details of this particularly interesting aspect of Hume's philosophical system. My presentation will be threefold. In the first section of the paper, I will elucidate the nature of sympathy, drawing upon some of the more recent ways in which Hume's commentators have attempted to resolve the interpretive puzzles Hume's works present. In the second section, I will explicate some of the functions sympathy has in Hume's philosophy, including not (...) only three that have been particularly prominent in the secondary literature, but also two others that have received considerably less attention. In the final section, I will summarize Hume's account of the nature and functions of sympathy and briefly suggest some of the ways in which these aspects of Hume's moral psychology seem to be supported by contemporary psychological research. (shrink)
The distinction between “empathy” and “sympathy” in the context of ethics is a dynamic and challenging one. The eighteenth century texts of David Hume and Adam Smith used the word "sympathy," but not "empathy," although the conceptual distinction marked by empathy was doing essential work in their writings. After discussing the early uses of these terms, this article is organized historically. Two traditions are distinguished. The first is the Anglo-American tradition, and it extends from Hume and Smith to (...) the twenty-first century work of Michael Slote. Stephen Darwall’s contribution is applied in engaging Hume and Smith. Finally, the interrelation of empathy, sympathy and altruism is explored in the work of John Rawls and Thomas Nagel. The second tradition is the Continental one. It extends from the spirituality of Johann Herder to the phenomenological movement of Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Max Scheler, and Edith Stein. The intentional analysis of empathy is directly relevant to the constitution of the social community in a broad, normative relationship with the "Other.". (shrink)
In this article I examine an example of sympathy -- the actions of one woman who rescued Jews during their persecution in Nazi Europe. I argue that this woman''s account of her actions here suggests that sympathy is a primitive response to the suffering of another. By primitive here I mean: first, that these responses are immediate and unthinking; and second, that these responses are explanatorily basic, that they cannot be explained in terms of some more fundamental feature (...) of human nature -- such as some particular desire or sentiment that we possess. My conclusion is then that our sympathetic responses are themselves partially constitutive of our conception of what is to be a human being. (shrink)
I have shown here the different roles that sympathy plays in the accounts of justice in the Treatise and Enquiry. In the former work, a redirected sympathy naturally extends our concern, and subsequently our moral approval or blame, to all those included within the scope of the rules of justice. In the Enquiry, we find this same progress of sentiments, but Hume’s introduction of the sentiment of humanity allows him to make a stronger case for the importance of (...) those virtues that are useful, particularly the virtues of justice. The command of our esteem and our moral approval of justice secure a place for justice at the heart of Hume’s ethics. This does not entail, however, that other useful virtues are not also essential. Benevolence and the care of children, friendship, and gratitude not only help to sustain sociability, but they are essential for living a properly human life. (shrink)
This paper attempts to relax the tension between Adam Smith's claim that sympathy involves an evaluative act of imaginative projection and his claim that sympathy involves a non-evaluative act of imaginative identification. The first section locates the tension specifically in the two different ways Smith depicts the stance adopted by the sympathizer. The second section argues that we can relax this tension by finding an important role for a non-evaluative stance in Smith's normative account of moral evaluation. This (...) solution protects the continuity in Smith's account of sympathy (cf. Griswold 1999: 99–103). Because of the particular way in which it renders intelligible the relationship between the evaluative and non-evaluative stances, this solution also emphasizes the importance that respect for the agent's conscience has in Smith's conception of an ideal moral judge (cf. Darwall 2004; 2006). The third section investigates a possible systematic basis for Smith's normative commitment to respectful moral judgment. (shrink)
Since the 2007 Vick dog-fighting case, much attention has been focused on cruelty against dogs. Cockfighting roosters, on the other hand, have been virtually ignored by scientists and laypeople alike. Accordingly, very little is known about our emotional reactions to roosters used for cockfighting. The present study attempts to fill this void in the scientific literature by examining the relationship between individual differences variables and sympathetic reactions to roosters used for cockfighting depicted in a video newscast. The results were robust, (...) with individual differences variables explaining 51% of the variability in sympathetic reactions to cockfighting roosters. Specifically, feelings toward roosters, extraversion, conscientiousness, and trait sympathy for animal suffering emerged as significant predictors, while belief in animal mind did not. The implications and limitations of these results are discussed. (shrink)
Seventeenth-century Cambridge Platonist Ralph Cudworth, writing just at the time when the concept of sympathy was moving from the realm of magic to that of ethics, argued that God must be understood as having a vital sympathy with suffering human beings. Yet while Cudworth invoked sympathy in an attempt to capture God's intimate relation with creation, in fact, it served as a principle of mediation that tended either to collapse God into the world or to distance God (...) from the world. The broader implications of this problematic conception of divine transcendence can be seen in the secularizing tendencies within sentimentalist ethics and in the work of the late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Anglican theologians, who were the first to affirm divine passibility. (shrink)
The nursing profession’s emphasis on empathy as essential to nursing care may undermine nurses’ power as a collective and detract from perceptions of nurses’ analytical skills and expertise. The practice of empathy may also obscure and even compound patients’ suffering when it does not fully account for their subjectivity. This essay examines the relation of empathy to women’s agency and explores the role empathy plays in obscuring rather than empowering the suffering other, particularly people who are disabled, through a close (...) reading of Edith Wharton’s 1907 novel, The Fruit of the Tree, and through discussions of empathy and sympathy from literary and disability studies. (shrink)
The paper examines the potential of sympathy as defined by Max Scheler to found a normative ethics. Scheler perceives sympathy in predominantly instinctivist terms, and insists that, while it accounts for a comprehensive range of human interactions, it cannot be a basis for ethics. However, Scheler does not convincingly argue against an ethics of sympathy. A closer examination of his account of sympathy reveals that this account in fact suggests a strong possibility of an ethics of (...)sympathy, which would also encompass other segments of Scheler's systematic view of sympathy, including seeing sympathy as a foundation for cognition, emotions, and a certain a priori collective knowledge. (shrink)
It is widely held in contemporary moral philosophy that moral agency must be explained in terms of some more basic account of human nature. This book presents a fundamental challenge to this view. Specifically, it argues that sympathy, understood as an immediate and unthinking response to another's suffering, plays a constitutive role in our conception of what it is to be human, and specifically in that conception of human life on which anything we might call a moral life depends.
This paper offers a new interpretation of Spinoza's doctrine of parallelism. It argues Spinoza reinterprets the ancient doctrine of metaphysical sympathy among ostensibly disconnected and distant beings in terms of fully intelligible relations of 1) identity between formal and objective reality, and in terms of 2) "real identity," grounded in Spinoza's substance-monism. Finally, the paper argues against the standard reading of mind-body pairs as "numerically identical".
What sort of person chooses to remain in a place like Rwanda when an easy exit is offered, when leaving seems the only safe or sane option, and when one is not directly connected to the would-be victims? And how does this person come to develop a circle of care that is expansive enough to include those who are radically Other? In what follows, I consider these questions through a detailed examination of the recent example of Paul Rusesabagina, the Hutu (...) hotel manager in Kigali, Rwanda, who sheltered more than a thousand Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees during the hundred-day genocide. I argue that Rusesabagina was primarily motivated by an awareness of his own mortality, his personal history, a desire to distance himself from the negative behavior of Hutu like himself, and a strong identification with the Tutsi refugees under his protection. (shrink)
In what follows, I wish to discuss empathy and sympathy’s relevance to ethics, taking recent findings into account. In particular, I want to consider sympathy’s relation to the idea of a person’s good or well-being. It is obvious and uncontroversial that sympathetic concern for a person involves some concern for her good and some desire to promote it. What I want to suggest is that the concept of a person’s good or well-being is one we have because we (...) are capable of care and sympathetic concern. Well-being is normative for care in the sense that it is intrinsic to the very idea of a person’s good that threats to it are what it makes sense to be concerned about for that person for her sake. (shrink)
In a rare full-length volume, renowned feminist thinker Sandra Lee Bartky brings together eight essays in one volume, Sympathy and Solidarity. A philosophical work accessible to an educated general audience, the essays reflect the intersection of the author's eye, work, and sometimes her politics. Two motifs connect the works: first, all deal with feminist topics and themes; second, most deal with the reality of oppression, especially in the disguised and subtle ways it can be manifested.
Political writings of eighteenth-century France have been so far mostly overlooked as a source of republican thought. Philosophers such as Condorcet actively promoted the ideal of republicanism in ways that can shed light on current debates. In this paper, I look at one particular source: Le Republicain, published in the summer 1791, focusing on previously unattributed articles by Condorcet’s wife and collaborator, Sophie de Grouchy. Grouchy, a philosopher in her own right, is beginning to be known for her Letters on (...)Sympathy, a response to Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiment, which she published at the same time as her translation of that text into French. I argue, further, that in the texts, which I attribute to Grouchy, we can find the early development of a commercial republican theory, a belief, which is reflected in her discussion of the ‘cost’ of tyranny. (shrink)
An increasingly popular suggestion is that empathy and/or sympathy plays a foundational role in understanding harm norms and being motivated by them. In this paper, I argue these emotions play a rather more moderate role in harms norms than we are often led to believe. Evidence from people with frontal lobe damage suggests that neither empathy, nor sympathy is necessary for the understanding of such norms. Furthermore, people's understanding of why it is wrong to harm varies and is (...) by no means limited to considerations of welfare arising from the abilities to sympathize and/or empathize. And the sorts of considerations of welfare that are central to sympathy and, to some extent empathy, are often already moralized. As such, these considerations cannot form the non-moral foundation of harm norms. Finally, empathy and sympathy are not the only emotions that motivate harm norms. Indeed, much of the evidence that has been adduced in favor of the motivational force of empathy and sympathy are studies on helping, which is quite a different behavior than aggression inhibition. Understanding and being motivated by harm norms are complex abilities. To understand them better, we need to move beyond the current fixation on empathy and sympathy. (shrink)
When modern economists use the notions of sympathy or empathy, they often claim that their ideas have their roots in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, while sometimes complaining that Smith fails to distinguish clearly enough between the two concepts. Recently, Philippe Fontaine has described various forms of sympathy and empathy, and has explored their respective roles in Smith's work. My objective in this paper is to argue that Smith's analysis of how people's sentiments impinge on one another (...) involves a concept of fellow-feeling that is distinct from both sympathy and empathy. Unlike sympathy and empathy, fellow-feeling does not fit into the ontological framework of rational choice theory – which may explain why it tends to be overlooked by modern readers of Smith. (shrink)
This paper has three aims. First, I defend, in its most radical form, Hume's scepticism about practical reason, as it applies to purely self-regarding matters. It's not always irrational to discount the future, to be inconstant in one's preferences, to have incompatible desires, to not pursue the means to one's ends, or to fail to maximize one's own good. Second, I explain how our response to the “irrational” agent should be understood as an expression of frustrated sympathy, in Adam (...) Smith's sense of sympathy, rather than a genuine judgement about Reason. We judge these people because we cannot imaginatively identify with their desires and attitudes, and this is frustrating. Third, compared to the standard cognitive view, my account better explains the nature of our criticism of the “irrational,” and, by portraying “irrationality” as a cause of upset to other people, provides a better normative basis for being “rational.”. (shrink)
In the Doctrine of Virtue Kant divides duties of love into three categories: beneficent activity , gratitude and Teilnehmung – commonly referred to as the duty of sympathy . In this paper I will argue that the content and scope of the third duty of love has been underestimated by both critics and defenders of Kant's ethical theory. The account which pervades the secondary literature maintains that the third duty of love includes only two components: an obligation to make (...) use of our natural receptivity to sympathetic feelings as a means to fulfilling other duties of love, and an indirect duty to cultivate these feelings. As a result, Kant's duty of sympathy has been widely regarded as a duty whose value is derived from the way in which it serves other duties, in particular, the duty of beneficent activity, which obliges agents ‘to promote according to one's means the happiness of others in need’ . Teilnehmung has thus assumed something of a second-class status among the duties to others. My aim in this paper is to demonstrate that the prevailing account of Kant's third duty of love is incomplete. (shrink)
In this essay the author explores the relation between sympathy and proximity in Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. The essay proceeds in two parts. First, the author demonstrates that Smith's description of our various attachments and affections, and the inevitable conflicts among them, draws us into the rich spatial texture of sympathetic response and stimulates further inquiry into a variety of spaces in which sympathetic activity takes place. In the second part, the author explores three such spaces-the physical, (...) the affective, and the historical/cultural-to critique the way that some contemporary moral and political theorists have appropriated Smith's account of sympathy as a tool for cosmopolitan aspirations. To what extent can Smith's sympathy model detach us from and get us beyond the partiality and particularity generated by our physical, affective, and cultural entanglements? (shrink)
Frans de Waal’s view that empathy is at the basis of morality directly seems to build on Darwin, who considered sympathy as the crucial instinct. Yet when we look closer, their understanding of the central social instinct differs considerably. De Waal sees our deeply ingrained tendency to sympathize (or rather: empathize) with others as the good side of our morally dualistic nature. For Darwin, sympathizing was not the whole story of the workings of sympathy ; the (selfish) need (...) to receive sympathy played just as central a role in the complex roads from sympathy to morality. Darwin’s understanding of sympathy stems from Adam Smith, who argued that the presence of morally impure motives should not be a reason for cynicism about morality. I suggest that De Waal’s approach could benefit from a more thorough alignment with the analysis of the workings of sympathy in the work of Darwin and Adam Smith. (shrink)
Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments has long been recognized as importantly influenced by, and in part responding to, David Hume’s earlier ethical theory. With regard to Smith’s account of the foundations of morals in particular, recent scholarly attention has focused on Smith’s differences with Hume over the question of sympathy. Whilst this is certainly important, disagreement over sympathy in fact represents only the starting point of Smith’s engagement with – and eventual attempted rejection of – Hume’s core (...) moral theory. We can see this by recognizing the TMS’s account of moral foundations as predicated upon a rejection of Hume’s distinction between the natural and artificial virtues. Smith is in turn revealed as generating a major break with Hume – a break which, if based on a superior theory of moral foundations has important consequences for how we treat Smith and Hume in both the history of philosophy and contemporary moral theory. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Hume’s account of sympathy is substantially unchanged from the Treatise to the second Enquiry. I show that Hume uses the term ‘sympathy’ to refer to three different mental phenomena (a psychological mechanism or principle, a sentiment, and a conversion process) and that he consistently refers to sympathy as a cause of benevolent motivation. I attempt to resolve an apparent difficulty regarding sympathy and humanity by explaining how each is an ‘original (...) principle’ in Hume’s sense. I conclude by suggesting how my interpretation might make a contemporary evaluation of Hume’s account of benevolent motivation possible. (shrink)
As J. Baird Callicott has argued, Adam Smith's moral theory is a philosophical ancestor of recent work in environmental ethics. However, Smith's "all important emotion of sympathy" (Callicott, 2001, p. 209) seems incapable of extension to entities that lack emotions with which one can sympathize. Drawing on the distinctive account of sympathy developed in Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, as well as his account of anthropomorphizing nature in "History of Astronomy and Physics," I show that sympathy with (...) non-sentient nature is possible within a Smithian ethics. This provides the possibility of extending sympathy, and thereby benevolence and justice, to nature. (shrink)
In modern economics, the use of sympathy and empathy shows significant ambiguity. Sympathy has been used in two different senses. First, it refers to cases where the concern for others directly affects an individual's own welfare . Second, the term has served the purposes of welfare economics, where it is associated with interpersonal comparisons of the extended sympathy type, that is, comparisons between one's own situation in a social state and someone else's in a different social state (...) . On the other hand, empathy has been used interchangeably with sympathy either to render the idea of interdependent utility functions , or to convey the imaginative process of imagining oneself in someone else's place. (shrink)
Edmund Husserl’s Kaizo articles mark one of his first attempts at notions of cultural renewal and critique. (1) Central to both of these notions for Husserl is the idea of a best possible humanity. At the conclusion of the Kaizo articles, Husserl entertains some quite troubling and potentially dangerous descriptions of the best possible in terms of an Übernation or Weltvolk. Although merely provisional, these descriptions call for a cultural and ethical renewal through the reorientation of humanity in accord with (...) a single, unified “world.” The Kaizo articles do represent Husserl’s most concentrated effort in developing a notion of cultural renewal but are not the only attempt made by Husserl at this time. In manuscripts written at nearly the exact same time period, Husserl had also taken up this notion of the best possible, but he did so in terms of the shared experiences in the acts of sympathy. (2) These sympathy manuscripts offer a genetic description of the origins of the best possible, in contrast to the static, eidetic method Husserl employed in the Kaizo articles. My aim in this paper is to show that a genetic phenomenological approach, grounding the best possible in the lived experiences of sympathy, offers a much more concrete telos for humanity. Solidarity among all human beings, rather than the idea of a “super nation,” would function as the best possible, as what we should and, thus, can become. Although certain shortcomings remain in the sympathy manuscripts, they indicate a much better beginning for a phenomenological approach to the question of a cultural renewal, a beginning that first emerges in genesis and the lived experience of the suffering of a fellow human being. (shrink)
We discuss the variety of sorts of sympathy Hume recognizes, the extent to which he thinks our sympathy with others’ feelings depends on inferences from the other’s expression, and from her perceived situation, and consider also whether he later changed his views about the nature and role of sympathy, in particular its role in morals.
Ralph Cudworth’s theory of mind was the most fully developed philosophical psychology among the Cambridge Platonists. Like his seventeenth-century contemporaries, Cudworth discussed mental powers in terms of soul rather than mind and considered the function of the soul to be not merely intellectual, but vital and moral. Cudworth conceived the soul as a single self-determining unit which combined many powers. He developed this against a philosophical agenda set by Descartes and Hobbes. But he turned to ancient philosophy, especially the philosophy (...) of Plotinus, to develop a psychology which is distinguished by the attention he gives to both conscious and unconscious states, and to the powers which enable it to reflect on itself, to co-ordinate its activities and direct them to good ends. I argue that in so doing, Cudworth sought to elaborate a theory of mind which accounted for observable experience of mental operations. My paper outlines the complexities of Cudworth’s taxonomy of mental powers, focusing on three key powers which Cudworth developed through his reading of Plotinus: energy, self-power, and sympathy. (shrink)
This essay explains and puts into theoretical perspective the rising interest in justice as an emotional virtue. Martin Hoffman's empathy theory is germane to this debate since it gives an essentially emotion?oriented account of moral development in general, as well as an explanation of the gradual bonding of empathy/sympathy with justice. While Hoffman's theory provides valuable insights into the ways in which all moral concerns, including justice, rely on and relate to the child's original capacity for empathy, it seems (...) to underestimate the emotionality of justice itself. This unnecessarily weakens the thrust of Hoffman's educational suggestions about induction as the most productive method of pro?social stimulation. (shrink)
Kantian moral humanism refers to Kant’s ingenious effort to conceive human beings as bearers of an intrinsic and non-negotiable value that is grounded on the fact that they are autonomous lawgivers in a kingdom of ends. However, the highly idealised character of his project and its metaphysical underpinnings render the association between man’s inner worth and autonomy problematic for the modern reader. In this essay we argue for a more down to earth moral humanism that still supports the above association (...) but through an alternative route. In our “moral image” introspection, interaction, and sympathy, conceived as a primitive emotion that motivates us to care for the good of other people, play a central grounding role. However, while we are now more certain about the soundness of the general moral framework concerning the justification of the inherent value of human beings, we are less confident about the obligations it generates. This is the price we pay as we descend from Kant’s orderly moral heaven to the messy reality of human affairs. (shrink)
Why did Hume drop sympathy as a key concept of his moral philosophy, and why—on the other hand—did Smith make it into the ‘didactic principle’ of his Theory of Moral Sentiments? These questions confront us with the basic issue of ethical theory concerning human nature. My point in dealing with these questions is to show what views of human nature their respective choices involved. And my procedure will be to take a close look at the revisions they made to (...) their ethical theories to bring out the contrasting aspects of their views of human nature. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIn this paper, I address the question of what we are really after when we seek Smithian mutual sympathy; I also show how the answer I propose can be used to illuminate a crucial feature of Smith's moral philosophy. The first section develops a Smithian response to egoistic interpretations of the desire for mutual sympathy. The second section identifies a number of different self- and other-relevant ways in which one could desire mutual sympathy. Some of these different (...) ways of desiring mutual sympathy comprise a spectrum of degrees of self-centredness; others comprise a spectrum of degrees of other-centredness. The third section shows that the spectra of ways of desiring mutual sympathy can be used to explain the kind of sincere, motivating attachment to morality characteristic of fully developed Smithian moral agents. (shrink)
This paper responds to criticisms of sympathy-based approaches to ethics made by Jesse Prinz, focusing on the criticism that emotions are too variable to form a basis for ethics. I draw on the idea, articulated by early sentimentalists such as Hutcheson and Hume, that proper reliance on sympathy is subject to a corrective procedure in order, in part, to avoid the variability problem.
With his theory of sympathy in the Treatise of Human Nature, Hume has been interpreted as anticipating later hermeneutic theories of understanding. It is argued in the present article that Hume has good reasons to consider a hermeneutic theory of empathetic understanding, that such a theory avoids a serious difficulty in Hume’s “official,” positivist theory of sympathy, that it is compatible with the complex and subtle form of positivism, or naturalism, developed in Book 1 of the Treatise, and (...) that his analysis of sympathy provides valuable methodological rules for empathetic interpreters. Against the interpretation of James Farr in “Hume, Hermeneutics, and History,” it is maintained that Hume’s theory does not support a hermeneutics of nonempathetic Verstehen. (shrink)
Adam Smith rejected Mandeville's invisible-hand doctrine of 'private vices, publick benefits'. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments his model of the 'impartial spectator' is driven not by sympathy for other people, but by their approbation. The innate capacity for sympathy makes approbation credible. Approbation needs to be authenticated, and in Smith's model authentication relies on innate virtue, which is not realistic. An alternative model of 'regard' makes use of signalling and is more pragmatic. Modern versions of the invisible (...) hand in rational choice theory and neo- liberalism are shown to be radical departures from the ethical legacy of Enlightenment and utilitarian economics, and are not consistent with Adam Smith's own position. (shrink)
Hume?s account of sympathy has often been taken to describe what the discovery of so-called mirror neurons has suggested, namely, that we are able to understand one another?s emotions and beliefs through experiences that require no mediating thoughts and exactly resemble the experiences of the observed person. I will oppose this interpretation by arguing that, on Hume?s standard account, sympathy is a mechanism that produces ideas and beliefs prior to the emergence of shared feelings. To stress this aspect (...) of Humean sympathy is to show that the experiences, which mirror neurons apparently cause us to have, may well count as inferentially derived emotion-laden beliefs, thus undermining the opposition between experience-grounded and inference-based accounts of mind-reading. (shrink)
Sympathy for animals is regarded by many thinkers as theoretically disreputable. Against this I argue that sympathy appropriately underlies moral concern for animals. I offer an account of sympathy that distinguishes sympathy with from sympathy for fellow creatures, and I argue that both can be placed on an objective basis, if we differentiate enlightened from folk sympathy. Moreover, I suggest that sympathy for animals is not, as some have claimed, incompatible with environmentalism; on (...) the contrary, it can ground environmental concern. Finally, I show that the traditional concept of anthropomorphism has no coherent basis, and I argue that the attempt to prove that animals lack thoughts is both unsuccessful and irrelevant to sympathy for languageless creatures. (shrink)
This paper adopts the view promoted by early modern philosopher Adam Smith that exercises of the sympathetic imagination play an important role in supporting human sociability and ethical behaviour. It argues that such exercises have potential to significantly change the way in which privileged racial identities relate to marginalised and devalued racial identities. First, the paper draws on Sally Haslanger’s reflections upon her lived experience of transracial parenting to illustrate how sympathetic identification with the experiences of a differently racialized individual (...) can transform the way in which we relate to entire racial groups. Haslanger’s account demonstrates the potential for exercises of the sympathetic imagination to disrupt the way in which we experience our own embodiment, and to generate a form of knowledge that implicates our sense of self and will to act. Second, the paper discusses some limitations of appealing to sympathy as a social resource in less intimate contexts. This discussio... (shrink)
Animal liberationists have increased our moral concern for animals, to the extent that many now think that animals have rights. I am very cautious about the arguments of these philosophers, although I agree with many of their precepts. In this respect, I am aligned with the powerful essays of Cora Diamond. I argue that something like what Hume calls sympathy is essential for expanding circles of moral concern, and develop some Humeian ideas. Sympathy with, and not simply (...) class='Hi'>sympathy for. Suffering is too narrow a range of concern. It is not as if the pain and pleasure of the utilitarians were the only ways in which we could be concerned with others. As Hume argued, animals share most human emotions, and it is through sympathy with the entire range that our worlds join. It is increasingly difficult for most of us to realize this, because human relationships with animals have changed since Hume's day. The multi-species barnyard has all but disappeared. We now live in a world of televised wilderness. To exaggerate, our species lives alone for the first time. Animal liberationists have the effect of enlarging our moral world, but should do so not just by attending to suffering or to rights of an animal, but to the whole creature, a being with which we can resonate. (shrink)
In this essay, I want to reconsider sympathy as a “natural” emotion or sentiment. Adam Smith famously defended it as such (as did his friend David Hume) but both used the term ambiguously and in a different sense than we use it today. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Smith got it quite right, that the basis of morality and justice is to be found in the realm of affect rather than in theory and principles alone, and that (...) class='Hi'>sympathy is a “natural” or should we say a “basic” emotion. But that means that morality may not be an exclusively human characteristic, as many philosophers (including Smith and Hume) have assumed. But some contemporary thinking in psychology and philosophy makes that extension plausible. (shrink)