IJN Colloquium

Empathy internalized

Victoria McGeer (Princeton/ANU)
Practical information
13 November 2020



Most talks will be online. We’ll have a limited number of slots for external participants. If you’d like to attend a session, please send an email about one week before that session to denis.buehler@ens.fr.

Abstract: It is commonly accepted that empathetic contact with others can play a key role in supporting and enhancing our own moral agency by way of engaging our emotions in a fitting or appropriate way.  I examine a particular instance of this commonsense view: that empathetic contact with others can be a powerful instigator of moral development by way of generating the self-castigating emotions of guilt, shame and remorse when we are brought face to face with the wrongs we have done to them.  In defense of this commonsense view, I argue the self-castigating emotions can be epistemically valuable so far as they promote insight into our conduct and character that may be necessary for such development.  But more problematically, these emotions can also be motivationally counterproductive for such development.  To overcome this problem, I examine the conditions under which these self-castigating emotions can be managed, contained or metabolized, thereby supporting rather than defeating our self-development.  My claim will be that forging an empathetic connection with our own erring self is an essential part of this developmental process