This essay revisits David Hume’s argument for moral sentimentalism and qualifies his solution to moral relativism. Agreeing with Hume’s empirical thesis that emotional judgments are contextually-determined, I trace his argument showing it is impossible to ground moral judgment in pure reason because reason is impartial and thus cannot choose moral values. Moral judgment therefore must be grounded in emotion. It follows that moral truth is relative to one’s subjective position because the partiality of moral judgment that enables the preference of certain moral values simultaneously makes it impossible for those judgments to be impartial and universal. Hume and other sentimentalists defend against this relativism by arguing that people who have been exposed to a diversity of thought and maintain an open-minded and empathic attitude are able to make superior moral judgments. I support this defense on the grounds that it champions freedom of expression and provides a viable framework for resolving moral disputes. At the same time, I argue that the moral relativism implied by Hume’s sentimentalism is too strong for him to claim that open-mindedness and empathy are absolute moral standards.
Aldo Leopold’s land ethic takes root in both metaphor and empathy. The use of metaphor and empathy in cultivating the land ethic has profound implications for our relations with the environment, both personal and political. I hope to show that these implications are positive and help us to realize the ethical extension vital to ensuring human harmony with nature. In pursuit of this, I first provide a deeper look into metaphor, empathy, alterity, and their overlap. I then put these ideas into the context of Leopold’s land ethic as described in A Sand County Almanac. Then I dissect the philosophical implications of metaphor and empathy in an environmental ethic. Finally, I suggest representation as a pragmatic instantiation of the ethic prescribed by metaphor and empathy. At the end of all, I think, is a compelling case made for the vital integration of more subjective modes of inquiry into the realm of ethics.
Humans spend a large amount of their free time engaged with fiction, whether it is reading a novel before bed, watching a television show, or skimming over the comic strips in the newspaper. Despite the abundance of these familiarities, there is very little research examining the effect of these experiences and the role they play in developing empathy, particularly in school age children. There is significant evidence that supports the relationship between reading fiction and empathy in adults (Johnson, 2012; Kidd & Castano, 2013; Mar et. al., 2006; Mar et. al., 2009). Based on this research and additional findings, this paper provides implications for building empathy in students through teaching practices. It also suggests the potential impacts these practices can have on not only the classroom level, but the societal level in terms of developing more empathetic children.
Two strangers come together to facilitate the therapeutic process. In stepping into a mysterious arena, the analysand and analyst meet in the psychoanalytic treatment room. What expectations does the analysand have of the analyst? What does the analyst hope will happen through treatment? How does the analyst create an emerging psychoanalytic treatment that facilitates healing for the analysand? Through the connection between analysand and analyst, the anaylsand hopefully forms a healthier, vital, and more coherent self. One must ask how the analysand comes to feel more coherent? What are the essential ingredients of a “cure?” In seeking to answer these questions, I have focused this paper on the discussion of empathy. The paper provides a self psychological historical analysis of the concept of empathy. Through turning to the work of Sigmund Freud, Heinz Kohut, Ernest Wolf, Howard Bacal, and Richard Geist, I strive to describe the concept of empathy and discuss how empathy plays a vital role in the psychoanalytic process. I argue that the self psychological psychoanalytic value of empathy has profound and altering effects for the analysand and analyst.
Narrative fiction, as a vehicle for empathic development, is deemed important across many contexts; however, limited empirical studies have examined this hypothesis as it relates to elementary students. The purpose of this mixed-methods action-research study is to investigate whether reading narrative fiction, combined with classroom activities on empathy and perspective, potentiates empathy in fourth-grade students. Participants (N = 46) were asked to complete pre- and post-unit questionnaires to measure empathy within three domains: affective empathy, cognitive empathy, and intention to help. Questionnaire data from the eleven-week novel study demonstrated statistically significant growth in my students’ empathy across all three domains. There was no significant difference in empathy growth between males and females in the three empathy domains. Qualitative data from eight academically diverse fourth-grade case studies were analyzed to further investigate the development of students’ empathy. Results indicated that during the eleven-week novel study, students developed their abilities to articulate their own affected emotions, their understanding of another’s emotions, and their plans to help another.