Embodied interaction and empathic understanding

In recent years, there has been a great deal of controversy in the philosophy of mind, developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience both about how to conceptualize empathy and about the connections between empathy and interpersonal understanding.

Ideally, we would first establish a consensus about how to conceptualize empathy, and then analyze the potential contribution of empathy to interpersonal understanding.

However, it is not at all clear that such a consensus will soon be forthcoming, given that different people have fundamentally conflicting intuitions about the concept of empathy. Thus, instead of trying to resolve this controversy, the project aims to show that a fair amount of consensus is within reach about how empathy can be a source of interpersonal understanding even in the absence of a consensus about how to conceptualize empathy.

The main controversy concerns a few phenomena which are typically engaged in embodied interaction, and which some researchers view as necessary conditions of empathy, but which others view either as merely characteristic features or as consequences of empathy – e.g. affective resonance, prosocial motivation, direct perception.

The project aims to identify and conceptualize these phenomena, and to articulate the ways in which empathy can generate interpersonal understanding by virtue of these phenomena—regardless of whether one chooses to conceptualize them as necessary conditions of empathy.


For further information please contact:

John Michael
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Center for Subjectivity Research, Copenhagen University
Njalsgade 140-142, Building 25, 5th floor
2300 København S
Phone: +45 353-28684
E-mail: mpt658@hum.ku.dk
Webpage: http://au.academia.edu/JohnMichael