Empathy by Rachel Hartzell

Empathy has not always been important to philosophers. Empathy had not become of importance until the 19th and 20th centuries. Empathy had been used as the primary means for gathering knowledge of other minds, and as the method surprisingly suited for the human sciences, only to be almost entirely neglected philosophically for the rest of the century. It has been only recently that philosophers have become interested in empathy again, and what it does for us humans. Edward Tichener introduced the word empathy in the year 1909 as the translation of the German term “Einfühlung” or also known as feeling into.
However, it was Theodor Lipps who looked at empathy in the most thorough manner. The most important concept was that, Lipps not only argued for empathy as a concept that is important for the philosophical and psychological analysis of our aesthetic experiences, but his work transformed empathy from a concept of philosophical aesthetics into a central category of the philosophy of the social and human sciences. For him, empathy not only plays a role in our aesthetic appreciation of objects, it has also to be understood as being the primary basis for recognizing each other as minded creatures. It was also believed that mirror neurons that played together were to blame for recognizing another person’s emotional state. Lipps explanation of empathy not surprisingly was used for the English term. For example if person B is in a very upset mood because of something that happened and person X is hanging with person B, person X can end up mirroring person B and go from being happy to becoming sad. The effect can also reverse so that person B can become happy like person X. Not surprisingly Lipps theory on empathy is the one used today for an English Definition of empathy.

Empathy fits into the class dicussion because we are always talking about how ones discission can impact the others, kinda like the effect that the mirror imaging has on people.

1. Why do you think empathy was not as important before the 19th and 20th century?
2. Do you believe that Lipps should have the credit for the definition of empathy?
3. What’s your opinion on the mirror neurons and how they work?

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