An Aetiology of Recognition: Empathy, Attachment and Moral Competence

In Edward Harcourt (ed.), Attachment and Character. Oxford University Press. pp. 195-223 (2021)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

This chapter explores the suggestion that early attachment underpins the human capacity for empathy, and that empathy, in turn, is a condition of moral competence. We are disposed by nature to seek intimacy with our human conspecifics: the securely attached child learns that, whatever perils the world may hold, his well-being is shielded within the private sphere of personal intimacy. But why should secure attachment also favour—as it does—recognition of moral obligations towards those with whom we have no special standing and share no personal destiny—recognition that the claims of persons as such merit our attention and regard? One answer to this question looks beyond the fact of secure attachment to a further psychological capacity, our capacity for empathy: secure attachment promotes susceptibility to empathy, and an appropriate susceptibility to empathy is a condition of basic moral competence. The chapter proposes that the deeper and more persisting significance of empathy to morality can be understood from a developmental perspective. Looking to mentalization-based attachment theory allows us to understand how empathic mirroring enters into our earliest intimate, interactions with other persons, securing our default commitment to recognizing their reality as bound up with our own. In this way, empathy constitutes one of the natural foundations on which the more complex architecture of moral experience is constructed. Attachment theory helps us to understand the indispensable role empathy plays at the beginning of the circuitous road to virtue.

Links

PhilArchive

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Why Does Empathy Matter for Morality?Carme Isern-Mas & Antoni Gomila - 2019 - Análisis Filosófico 39 (1):5-26.
The Relational Value of Empathy.Monika Betzler - 2019 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 27 (2):136-161.
In Defense of the Moral Significance of Empathy.Aaron Simmons - 2014 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (1):97-111.
Attachment Styles as Predictors of Empathy in Nursing Students.Mohammadreza Khodabakhsh - 2012 - Journal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine 5:1-7.
Empathy and Its Role in Morality.Meghan Masto - 2015 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 53 (1):74-96.
Rejecting Empathy for Animal Ethics.T. J. Kasperbauer - 2015 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (4):817-833.
The Ecstatic Nature of Empathy.Lawrence J. Hatab - 2001 - Journal of Philosophical Research 26:359-380.

Analytics

Added to PP
2022-08-31

Downloads
194 (#98,517)

6 months
81 (#51,639)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Alison Denham
University of Oxford

Citations of this work

Empathy & Literature.A. E. Denham - 2024 - Emotion Review 16 (2):84-95.

Add more citations

References found in this work

On the aesthetic education of man: in a series of letters.Friedrich Schiller - 1954 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Elizabeth M. Wilkinson & L. A. Willoughby.

Add more references