PC03 Empathy as an Instinct


Speaker: Michael Slote, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami.

Location: University Duisburg-Essen, conference: „Empathy, Sympathy, concern and Value.“, March 2013.

Duration: 01:14:06.

00:00:00 ProtreptiCast: Intro.
00:00:24 Short introduction.
00:00:40 Cognitive vs. emotional empathy.
00:03:00 Egoism.
00:05:00 Proximity.
00:06:00 Imitation.
00:17:00 Empathy and sympathy.
00:21:00 Evolutionary psychology.
00:30:00 The need for love.
00:35:00 Discussion.
01:12:04  ProtreptiCast: Outro.

Central statements:

  •  „The distinction between cognitive empathy and emotional empathy is not that severe than I /one have /has been thinking before.“
  • „Need for approval is not egoistic.“
  • „The ‚egoistic‘ motives play intrinsic importance on other people, that’s why they ar not really egoistic.“
  • „There are motives which are neither egoistic nor altruistic (neutral) like curiosity.“
  • „Marine iguanas like to sun themselves together.“
  • „We like to be like others.“
  • „(Emotional) empathy isn’t as passive as we have imaginged, it’s something we want (actively).“
  • „Empathy is a basic instinct or at least something inside of us that moves us into the direction putting oneself into the shoes or the head of the others.“
  • „Empathy means imitating the psyche of another person.“
  • „Empathy involves — according to Hume — a kind of embracing.“
  • „More than like hearing (you can’t help hearing something), empathy seems to be like listening — a psychological movement toward the taking-in.“
  • „When we take in the attitudes of others, we take them in with their intentionality.“
  • „When a person is distressed, he or she is distressed AT something — that is the intentionality.“
  • „Empathy means to osmotically imbibe the feelings of another person.“
  • „Having pain includes the ipso-facto-motivation to avoid it.“
  • „Sympathetic concern does not lead to motivation, it is having a motivation — there is a conceptual connection in many cases.“
  • „Defining empathy in the ‚right‘ way leads to the assumption: ‚Egoistic‘ motives can be altruistic as well.“
  • „One way how you get a good relationship between a child and a mother: If the need for love is fullfilled.“

References/ further reading:

* Alfano, Mark: Moral Psychology: An Introduction. (forthcoming)

* Batson, Daniel C.: Altruism in Humans.Oxford University Press: 2010.
Excerpt from Oxford Sholarship Online:
„This book takes a hard-science look at the possibility that we humans have the capacity to care for others for their sakes (altruism) rather than simply for our own (egoism). The look is based not on armchair speculation, dramatic cases, or after-the-fact interviews, but on an extensive series of theory-testing laboratory experiments conducted over the past 35 years […].“

* Doris, John and Stich, Stephen: Moral Psychology: Empirical Approaches. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

* May, Joshua: Altruism and Psychological Egoism.
Abstract: „Psychological egoism is the thesis that all of our (intentional) actions are ultimately motivated by what we take to be in our own self-interest. This is distinct from ethical egoism, which makes a similar claim that is normative rather than merely descriptive. Many treat altruism as a motivational state that is ultimately other-regarding. (This is importantly different from more technical uses of the term, such as the merely behavioral sense often used in evolutionary theory.) Psychological altruism is the main opposing view, stating that some of our actions are ultimately motivated by genuine altruism (ultimately other-regarding motivations). Importantly, the motivations here must be ultimate or intrinsic. Psychological egoists admit that we can desire to help another, but they will maintain that this is merely instrumental to an ultimate desire that is self-interested. Such a theory is important to ethics in part because it can potentially lead to challenging morality: If altruism is psychologically impossible, then it can’t be our duty to be altruistic.“

* May, Joshua: Psychological Egoism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: 2011. [Long list of further reading there].

* Shaver, Robert: Egoism. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

* Sobel, John Howard: Egoisms, psychological and ethical. Cogito 10 (1):22-28 (1996).
Abstract: „Speaking rather grandly, Egoism is the philosophy of self interest. It says that actions are ‘ruled’ by self interest which makes it prima facie a philosophy of selfishness. Whether this is its real character needs to be looked into. But first a complication intrudes, for only a little reflection reveals that egoism as here characterized is not one philosophy, but two. These want to be distinguished, and once distinguished, their relations understood. These preliminaries to investigating the merits of forms of egoism and connections with ordinary ideas of selfishness make the business of the present paper.“

* Stueber, Karsten: Empathy. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).

Special Thanks to:

Technique and post-processing : See pc01.

Intro and Outro: See pc01.

Creative Commons License
ProtreptiCast — Hörbar Philosophie by Leonie Seng is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.