Chapter

Empathy, Evolution, and Altruism

William B. Hurlbut

in Altruism and Altruistic Love

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195143584
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848119 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195143584.003.0026
Empathy, Evolution, and Altruism

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The Cartesian dualism of mind and body is an unsatisfactory sidestepping of the central issues under discussion here. The beginnings of sociality are seen even in the most primordial configurations of living matter. The progressive integration of an organism's “inner life” with its external action and presentation of self was further extended in Homo sapiens with the radical cerebral reorganization that accompanied the transition to human upright posture. Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand the situations, motives, and feelings of another. It is so natural to us that we rarely ponder the mystery of its mechanism. Human existence is by nature intrinsically social, located within the context of community and culture. Insight into the other person enabled by the capacity for empathy can be used for open communication or for calculated deception. The cultural universals seem to cluster around the two central issues of flourishing and freedom.

Keywords: Cartesian dualism; inner life; empathy; human existence; culture

Chapter.  9914 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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