Empathy and Empirical Psychology

Lawrence Blum

in Morality and the Emotions

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577507
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731235 | DOI:
Empathy and Empirical Psychology

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Shaun Nichols is a leading figure in the recent turn toward empirical psychology within moral philosophy. This chapter criticizes his account of empathy and defense of ‘neo-sentimentalism’, and by implication much work in this tradition, for its impoverished view of moral emotions. Empathy, and related altruistic emotions, are necessarily intentional, not mere copies of feeling states of the other; perceptual, involving ways of seeing the world; cognitive in involving ways of understanding others; and expressive on top of being motivational (empathy or compassion are expressed in (helping) behavior as well as motivating it). Although philosophy benefits from attention to empirical psychology, this chapter argues that experimental psychology abandons the rich tradition of philosophical moral psychology, which can be carried out only with the distinctive humanistic methods of philosophy

Keywords: empathy; altruistic emotion; Schopenhauer; Hume; neo-sentimentalism; fellow-feeling

Chapter.  12963 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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