Íngrid Vendrell-Ferran
Heidelberg University
One important aspect of Nussbaum´s thesis on the moral value of literature concerns the power of literature to enhance our ability to empathise with other minds. This aspect will be the focus of the current article. My aim is to reflect upon this question regarding the moral value of our empathy for fictional characters. The article is structured in two main parts. I will first examine the concept of “empathy” and distinguish between empathy for human beings and empathy for fictional characters. I will call the latter “literary empathy”. In the second part of the paper I will examine the arguments for and against the double thesis that reading literature enhances our ability to feel empathy, and that feeling empathy prompts altruistic behaviour.
Keywords empathy  literary empathy  altruistic behaviour  Marta Nussbaum  cognitive value  moral value
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