Why We Need Empathy

Australasian Philosophical Review 5 (4):366-373 (2021)
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Abstract

Kwong-loi Shun argues that our reactions to situations of danger to others needn’t be understood in terms of empathy for those others, but can be fully anchored in what is bad about the situations themselves. My reply begins by pointing out cases where the desire to help and/or emotional reactions to what is bad for others don’t seem to involve empathy and then showing how empathy actually works in those cases. It goes on to argue that empathy allows a deeper and more nuanced explanation of our responses and non-responses to dire situations than the appeal to the badness of those situations makes possible. Bringing in empathy forces one to go beyond Shun’s attempt to stay within Chinese tradition.However, the reply to Shun goes on to demonstrate how our understanding of empathy and of many other aspects of our moral psychology can be deepened and enhanced by bringing in the distinctive Chinese ideas of yin and yang—conceived as complementary rather than as opposites or contraries. Via a revived and fine-tuned notion of yin/yang Chinese thought has much to teach Western philosophers.

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Michael Slote
University of Miami

Citations of this work

Ethical Practitioners and Intellectual Commentators.Kwong-loi Shun - 2021 - Australasian Philosophical Review 5 (4):418-430.
Introduction.Hui-Chieh Loy - 2021 - Australasian Philosophical Review 5 (4):323-326.

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References found in this work

What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
Anger, Compassion, and the Distinction between First and Third Person.Kwong-Loi Shun - 2021 - Australasian Philosophical Review 5 (4):327-343.
Yin-Yang and the Heart-Mind.Michael Slote - 2018 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 17 (1):1-11.

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