Who needs empathy? A response to Goldie's arguments against empathy and suggestions for an account of mutual perspective-shifting in contexts of help and care

Ethics and Education 2 (1):61-72 (2007)
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Abstract

According to an influential view, empathy has, and should have, a role in ethics, but it is by no means clear what is meant by 'empathy', and why exactly it is supposed to be morally good. Recently, Peter Goldie has challenged that view. He shows how problematic empathy is, and argues that taking an external perspective is morally superior: we should focus on the other, rather than ourselves. But this argument is misguided in several ways. If we consider conversation, there is no need to see an opposition between a focus on the other and on ourselves. I propose to shift the perspective of the discussion towards the needs of those who are supposed to benefit from empathy, and to study how people communicate their imaginative processes towards their receivers. I end with an exploration of theoretical resources for an account of mutual perspective- shifting

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