Graham McFee

in Empathy

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199539956
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191730931 | DOI:

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The paper considers the use of the concept empathy in philosophical aesthetics, and in art appreciation, though “objects of comparison” (PI §130) from inter-personal empathy. It focuses first on the explanation of failure of empathy in terms of a failure to match the psychological state of the objects of (attempted) empathy: this notion is problematic, applied to others, as we cannot readily determine whether there is such a match; nor does it make sense to quantify such ‘matching’ as this or that percentage. Further, empirical work which seems to elaborate the concepts here still depends centrally on this ‘matching’ model. Moreover, the differences between ‘matching’ a real person and doing this for a fictional character mean that, however successful it might be in respect of empathy viewed inter-personally, it will never be informative in the same way for characters in literature. To see why, we must both deploy ‘objects of comparison’ from the inter-personal cases, noting especially the differences in contexts and resources for ‘matching’, and also insist on contrasting judgement and appreciation of artworks (artistic judgement) with the judgements we make of (other?) aesthetic objects. For then we will not confuse fiction with literature.

Keywords: matching; literature; fiction; Pérez-Reverte; Wittgenstein; object of comparison

Chapter.  13314 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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