The Contribution of Empathy to Ethics

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 27 (2):244-264 (2019)
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ABSTRACTEmpathy has been taken to play a crucial role in ethics at least since the Scottish Enlightenment. More recently, a revival of moral sentimentalism and empirical research on moral behavior has prompted a renewed interest in empathy and related concepts and on their contribution to moral reasoning and to moral behavior. Furthermore, empathy has recently entered our public discourse as having the power to ameliorate our social and political interactions with others.The aim of this paper is to investigate the extent to which such a role can be actually granted. Before focusing on a positive assessment, I will delve into a few problems our ordinary concept of empathy and our commonsensical way of conceiving its connection to ethics will need to face. Specifically, I will show how an exaggerated reliance on the ordinary concept of empathy could lead to an underestimation of its biases and potential limitations, how a naïve conception of its connection to morality can overlook relevant counterexam...



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