Empathy has for a long time, at least since the eighteenth century, been seen as centrally important in relation to our capacity to gain a grasp of the content of other people's minds, and predict and explain what they will think, feel, and do; and in relation to our capacity to respond to others ethically. In addition, empathy is seen as having a central role in aesthetics, in the understanding of our engagement with works of art and with fictional characters. (...) A fuller understanding of empathy is now offered by the interaction of research in science and the humanities. This volume draws together nineteen original chapters by leading researchers across several disciplines, together with an extensive Introduction by the editors. The individual chapters reveal how important it is, in a wide range of fields of enquiry, to bring to bear an understanding of the role of empathy in its various guises. It offers the ideal starting-point for the exploration of this intriguing aspect of human life. (shrink)
A longstanding problem with the study of empathy is the lack of a clear and agreed upon definition. A trend in the recent literature is to respond to this problem by advancing a broad and all-encompassing view of empathy that applies to myriad processes ranging from mimicry and imitation to high-level perspective taking. I argue that this response takes us in the wrong direction and that what we need in order to better understand empathy is a narrower conceptualization, not a (...) broader one. I propose that empathy be conceptualized as a complex, imaginative process through which an observer simulates another person's situated psychological states while maintaining clear self–other differentiation. I defend my view through an examination of three processes: emotional contagion, a process of self-oriented perspective taking that I call “pseudo-empathy,” and empathy proper. Drawing on recent findings in social neuroscience, I highlight the differences among these processes and discuss conceptual, empirical, and normative reasons for keeping them theoretically and conceptually distinct. (shrink)
By briefly sketching some important ancient accounts of the connections between psychology and moral education, I hope to illuminate the significance of the contemporary debate on the nature of emotion and to reveal its stakes. I begin the essay with a brief discussion of intellectualism in Socrates and the Stoics, and Plato's and Posidonius's respective attacks against it. Next, I examine the two current leading philosophical accounts of emotion: the cognitive theory and the noncognitive theory. I maintain that the noncognitive (...) theory better explains human behavior and experience and has more empirical support than the cognitive theory. In the third section of the essay I argue that recent empirical research on emotional contagion and mirroring processes provides important new evidence for the noncognitive theory. In the final section, I draw some preliminary conclusions about moral education and the acquisition of virtue. (shrink)
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is widely regarded as a "masterpiece of modern cinema" and is regularly ranked as one of the great films of all time. Set in a dystopian future where the line between human beings and ‘replicants’ is blurred, the film raises a host of philosophical questions about what it is to be human, the possibility of moral agency and freedom in ‘created’ life forms, and the capacity of cinema to make a genuine contribution to our engagement with (...) these kinds of questions. This volume of specially commissioned chapters systematically explores and addresses these issues from a philosophical point of view. Beginning with a helpful introduction, the seven chapters examine the following questions: How is the theme of death explored in Blade Runner and with what implications for our understanding of the human condition? What can we learn about the relationship between emotion and reason from the depiction of the ‘replicants’ in Blade Runner ? How are memory, empathy, and moral agency related in Blade Runner ? How does the style and ‘mood’ of Blade Runner bear upon its thematic and philosophical significance? Is Blade Runner a meditation on the nature of film itself? Including a brief biography of the director and a detailed list of references to other writings on the film, Blade Runner is essential reading for students – indeed anyone - interested in philosophy and film studies. Contributors: Colin Allen, Peter Atterton, Amy Coplan, David Davies, Berys Gaut, Stephen Mulhall, C. D. C. Reeve. (shrink)
In this dissertation, I explain the psychological impact of narrative fiction films and some of their effects on social and moral life. This puts my project at one of the intersections between aesthetics and moral psychology. In the first half of the dissertation, which focuses on moral psychology, I develop an account of empathy that specifies its essential characteristics and distinguishes it from several closely related phenomena that are often confused with it. I define empathy as a complex psychological process (...) during which we imaginatively inhabit the perspective of another individual, while at the same time preserving a clearly differentiated sense of self. After defining empathy, I consider its role in social and moral life. The second half of the dissertation concerns the question of how we engage characters in narrative fiction films. I argue that we typically empathize with one or more characters, though this is only one dimension of our film viewing experience. To characterize this process and its effects on social and moral life, I utilize the account of empathy developed in the first half of the dissertation. My project is primarily descriptive and draws from several areas of philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and cultural studies. (shrink)
Amy Coplan argues that recent work in the philosophy of the emotions suggests that film is more effective that literature in inducing non-cognitive affect. Derek Matravers replies to this, and suggests reasons for scepticism.
This chapter contains sections titled: Intellectualism: Is Knowledge the Path to Virtue? Contemporary Philosophy of Emotion: How Should We Define Emotion? Emotional Contagion and Mirroring Processes Why Do Definitions Matter? References.