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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Jesse Prinz

 http://j.mp/1hGhZqE

For & Against Empathy: Is Empathy Necessary for Morality? Jesse Prinz & Edwin Rutsch

Jesse Prinz is Distinguished Professor at City University of New York, Graduate Center. He says "I work primarily in the philosophy of psychology, broadly construed. I am interested in how the mind works. I think philosophical accounts of the mental can be fruitfully informed by findings from psychology, the neurosciences, anthropology, and related fields. My theoretical convictions are unabashedly empiricist. I hope to resuscitate core claims of British Empiricism against the backdrop of contemporary philosophy of mind and cognitive science."

 

Jesse wrote a couple of papers critical of empathy titled, 'Against Empathy' and 'Is Empathy Necessary for Morality?'  His work has been referenced by other articles critical of empathy like 'The Baby in the Well, The case against empathy' by Paul Bloom in The New Yorker and 'The Limits of Empathy' by David Brooks in the New York Times.
 

In this engaging interview-dialog, Edwin Rutsch empathizes with Jesse about the problems he sees with empathy and replies to some of the criticisms.  Jesses says, "empathy is prone to biases that render it potentially harmful. Another construct—concern—fares somewhat better, but it is also of limited use. I argue that, instead of empathy, moral judgments involve emotions such as anger, disgust, guilt, and admiration. These, not empathy, provide the sentimental foundation for morality."

Sub Conferences: Science: Philosophy

 
 
 

 

For & Against Empathy: Is Empathy Necessary for Morality? Jesse Prinz & Edwin Rutsch

Philosophers Empathy Circle

For & Against Empathy  
Lori Gruen, Jesse Prinz and Edwin Rutsch


With David Hume looking over his their shoulders, Edwin Rutsch facilitates a new way for philosophers to dialog with each other about their views. Instead of a competitive debate, they try to empathize with each others feelings, needs, points of view and understandings. Edwin facilitates this Philosophers Empathy Circle
with Jesse Prinz who is 'against empathy' and Lori Gruen who is 'for empathy'. Check out this fascinating process and discussion. How will it end?

 


The School of Athens, by Raphael (Wikipedia)

 
Jesse Prinz is Distinguished Professor at City University of New York and
 author of 'The Emotional Construction of Morals'.
 
"empathy is prone to biases that render it potentially harmful...
I argue that, instead of empathy, moral judgments involve emotions
such as anger, disgust, guilt, and admiration. These, not empathy,
provide the sentimental foundation for morality."


Lori Gruen is Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University and
author of 'Entangled Empathy: From an Ethics of Justice to an Ethics of Empathy'

"Empathy is also something we are taught to "get over" or grow

out of. We learn to quash our caring reactions for others, and

our busy lives and immediate preoccupations provide

 excuses for not developing empathy."

"I feel we need to build a global culture of empathy.
 It's the only way humanity and the planet can survive."
 
 

Philosophers Empathy Circle For & Against Empathy: Lori Gruen, Jesse Prinz, Edwin Rutsch

 
 

 

U. of Cambridge: Is Empathy Important for Morality? Jesse J. Prinz & Molly Crockett

"Empathy is widely and increasingly heralded as an essential ingredient of morality. It is said to be necessary for moral development, moral motivation, and even for comprehending the moral domain. But is empathy really important for morality Prof Jesse Prinz and Prof Molly Crockett will address these claims and engage in a discussion and Q&A session. Prof Prinz argues that empathy is in fact not necessary for morality, and it may even be harmful. Because empathy can bias us towards our near and dear, and blind us to demands of justice, we should look beyond empathy in developing recommendations about how to instill moral competence and encourage moral commitment."

 

 

Radio Program: Philosophers Zone: Empathy
Presented by Joe Gelonesi with Jesse Prinz, Claudia Passos-Ferreira
"Walk a mile in my shoes goes the saying. But beware the swapping of footwear. Many believe that what the world needs now is empathy; large dollops of it. President Obama, no less, raised empathy to a question of public policy, comparing the dangers of an empathy deficit with the big hole in the federal budget. It sounds right and feels good but is empathy really necessary for sound moral judgement? Worse, could it lead to injustice?"

  • lot's of empathy books out there..  but be wary

  • Jesse Prinz- Empathy skeptic; Empathy is more harmful than helpful in the moral domain. Government creating more empathy is a misallocation of resources.

  • What is empathy and why do we need to understand it?
     Is a disposition to have emotions. There is no single feeling of empathy. It might be experienced as sadness, if you feel somebody who is sad. It might be experiencing as anger if you see somebody who is angry. And it can be described as a capacity to have a vicarious emotional experience. So when you see somebody else's experience or imagine what experience they would be having under their circumstances, for instance you see somebody in great danger, you have a tendency to acquire a take on that experience. To see somebody in danger induces fear in the observer.  Fear in you, even if you are not in any danger yourself. So the importance or interest in empathy is that is a fundamentally social response.  It shows that our emotions are not just narcissistic, but are calibrated to the conditions of other people around us.

  • Is it the same a sympathy? The same term David Hume used but in a different way?
    I think it's quite the same, but the term  empathy is a newer term. It had German origins and has been with us for only 100 years. If you look at Hume, he defines sympathy in much the same way I just characterized empathy and some people in recent philosophical discussions have tried to develop more nuanced ddistinctions here aand one could say for instance that in the case of empathy there is a further kind of attribution that goes on. It's not simply a contagion process where you literally catch the emotion of somebody your observing, but you first catch an emotion and then go on to attribute to that person a kind of emotional state. So there is a kind of cognitive dimension in the case of empathy that is not always implicated in sympathy as these terms are currently used.

  • 3:00 Empathy as first base in moral reasoning. Right and just moral outcome.  you see a problem in that don't you?
    Is a dangerous emotion when it comes to moral decision making. For several reasons.

    • empathy is dyadic, between 2 people.. problems are between whole populations. i.e. global poverty, discrepancy of wealth, etc. These don't dwell on the suffering on one individual but of a whole group

    • psychology says empathy does not arise in group context.

    • Empathy arises mostly with people similar to us.  If your concerned with other groups, then empathy is not likely to be engaged.

    • Psychology says empathy is not very motivating.  feeling vicarious distress (personal distress)  as a kind of incapacitating response. When somebody else suffers, and you catch their suffering (emotional contagion) you become disabled by that feeling. You are now lacking in the ability to do anything because you have joined them in their misery.

    • Outrage with injustice, with global poverty.  that can be motivating. feelings of outrage at injustice are much more successful at motivating moral emotions than vicarious forms of distress that are associated with empathy.

  • 5:30 Anger as motivating force?

    • every emotion has it dangers.

    • reflection in perfect moral decision.

    • hold our emotions in check with more considered or reflective emotional responses.

    • some irritates you - maybe a mistake.. reflection, having been wronged.

  • 5:45 Eight objections to empathy.

    • non motivating

    • preferential treatment

    • biases

    • manipulation

    • selective ingroup

    • proximity effects

    • getting close to some distorts the objectivity of the moral situation you might be in?
      yes.. empathy is good for small groups, exceptionally well suited for that. Empathy is a wonderful emotion for friendships and family. To feel when your friends are suffering,  that their suffering is a mater of your own personal concern is vital to successful interpersonal relationships. But when we are dealing with moral issues, we very often need to take a stance that is disconnected from our particular group memberships. I think empathy is ill-suited for that, it's actually going to drive us away from the sensitivity we need to take on moral concern. If you think about the Australian context where we have a country populated as a result of a colonialization and some would say a near genocide. Or the North American context where the same it true and the moral crime of slavery, these particular cases of human atrocities. Some of the most egregious examples of human immorally in our recent history are really dependant on a group difference. On the fact that we are able to dehumanize some other population by seeing them as fundamentally different than us. Empathy is very susceptible to that kind of dehumanization. Once you see somebody as fundamentally other, fundamentally different, empathy turn off like a switch.  But in justice, our sense now that what we have done in the historical past was heinous, is I think connected to a more intellectual recognition of human dignity. And when we see that in clear perspective the outrage and the great shame is very easy to feel.

  • 9:00 - The motivating power of empathy for the other. is powerful.
    Nice work if you can get it. The fear again is that it is difficult to get that into motion and if you've gotten it into motion it is because you already done all these other acrobatics that are themselves sufficient for the moral conduct. ......
    people don't take the extra step of energy needed for empathy. Empathy tends to be very lacking in motivation power (mother tending to baby??)  If you focus on issues of distributive justice, and realize that wealthy societies should not tolerate the kind of poverty that we see all around us. That is a very strong motivator......

  • 10:00 - This moves towards a Cantian duty based set of ethics, doesn't it?
    It is Cantian in some sense. Principled, this notion that justice can be grounded very often in a sense of human equality and share human dignity is a very important part of the picture....
    need a tool to motivate human action... need a combination of principle and sentiment. We need principle to tell us which cases are cases of injustice, but we need a sensibility and an emotional capacity to see injustice as wrong.....

  • 11:30 - Outrage based morality -
    Outrage is just part of the story.... emotions like guilt, shame, even joy....

  • 12:00 - Book Store self-help section says we need more empathy, we need to be more empathetic to one another.
    I think we are on the wrong track.  There is something very seductive about empathy. To say you are against empathy is like say your against puppy dogs.... I don't think apposing empathy as a moral compass means we should appose empathy as a foundation for good friendships for instance. I do think these self help books when they have taken on a moral cast give us a sense that there is a kind of panacea..... empathy is potentially more harmful than helpful in the moral domain.

14: 00 - Claudia Passos-Ferreira has been developing a response to the empathy naysayers.
Case of the children from Central America.

  • Does empathy play a central role in morality?

    • empathic concern,

  • 17:00 -  anger as motivation

  • ......


     


The dangerous shortcomings of empathy
Monday 3 November 2014 - Joe Gelonesi

"Psychology tells us that empathy arises for people who are similar to us, which can have serious implications on our ability to make sound moral judgments, writes Joe Gelonesi. He speaks to empathy skeptic Jesse Prinz about why emotions like anger might be more successful in motivating us to act."

 

 

Is Empathy Necessary for Morality?

 It is widely believed that empathy is a good thing, from a moral point of view. It is something we should cultivate because it makes us better people. Perhaps that’s true. But it is also sometimes suggested that empathy is somehow necessary for morality. That is the hypothesis I want to interrogate and challenge. Not only is there little evidence for the claim that empathy is necessary, there is also reason to think empathy can interfere with the ends of morality. A capacity for empathy might make us better people, but placing empathy at the center of our moral lives may be ill advised. That is not to say that morality shouldn’t centrally involve emotions. I think emotions are essential for moral judgment and moral motivation (Prinz, 2007). It’s just that empathetic emotions are not ideally suited for these jobs. Before embarking on this campaign against empathy, I want to say a little more about the target of the attack. What is empathy?

 

Book: Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives - Editors: Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie.  - 2011

"In this chapter I ask whether empathy is necessary for morality. This question can be disambiguated in several ways. Is empathy necessary for making moral judgments? Is empathy necessary for developing a moral sense? Is empathy necessary for moral motivation? Is empathy normatively necessary i.e., should we necessarily try to cultivate an empathy-based moral psychology? I argue that the answer to each of these questions is no. Empathy is less integral to morality, than some have thought, and potentially an impediment to moral motivation. Other moral emotions are more important."

 Against Empathy - 2011-09-01
"Empathy can be characterized as a vicarious emotion that one person experiences when reflecting on the emotion of another. So characterized, empathy is sometimes regarded as a precondition on moral judgment. This seems to have been Hume's view. I review various ways in which empathy might be regarded as a precondition and argue against each of them: empathy is not a component, a necessary cause, a reliable epistemic guide, a foundation for justification, or the motivating force behind our moral judgments. In fact, empathy is prone to biases that render it potentially harmful. Another construct—concern—fares somewhat better, but it is also of limited use. I argue that, instead of empathy, moral judgments involve emotions such as anger, disgust, guilt, and admiration. These, not empathy, provide the sentimental foundation for morality."

 

 

 

Articles Referencing Jesse Prinz

The Baby in the Well,  The case against empathy. 2013-05-20
By Paul Bloom - New Yorker
Magazine
"Moral judgment entails more than putting oneself in another’s shoes. As the philosopher Jesse Prinz points out, some acts that we easily recognize as wrong, such as shoplifting or tax evasion, have no identifiable victim. And plenty of good deeds—disciplining a child for dangerous behavior, enforcing a fair and impartial procedure for determining who should get an organ transplant, despite the suffering of those low on the list—require us to put our empathy to one side. Eight deaths are worse than one, even if you know the name of the one; humanitarian aid can, if poorly targeted, be counterproductive; the threat posed by climate change warrants the sacrifices entailed by efforts to ameliorate it."
 

The Limits of Empathy  2011-09-29
by David Brooks - NY Times
"There have been piles of studies investigating the link between empathy and moral action. Different scholars come to different conclusions, but, in a recent paper, Jesse Prinz, a philosopher at City University of New York, summarized the research this way: “These studies suggest that empathy is not a major player when it comes to moral motivation. Its contribution is negligible in children, modest in adults, and nonexistent when costs are significant.” Other scholars have called empathy a “fragile flower,” easily crushed by self-concern."

Against Empathy: Critical Theory and the Social Brainmore
by Jan Slaby,  junior professor in philosophy at Free University Berlin, Germany.
"The aim of this paper is to mount two distinct challenges to the currently fashionable research and discourse on empathy... Footnote 13. Jesse Prinz (2011) has helpfully surveyed objections to the notion of grounding a naturalist account of human morality on empathy and related pro-social sentiments. Epistemically, the range of empathy is usually restricted to the local and familiar to an extent we cannot tolerate for morality, it can thus all too easily be manipulated (rhetorically, with images etc.). Empathy is often not motivational in the right way; it carries no normative weight in moral deliberation unless one is ready to violate the naturalistic fallacy objection. Moreover, as an occurring affective state, it is usually biased towards the here and now and thus always prone to overrule longer-term rational deliberation."
 



Empathy for Prinz of the “Dark Side” - Ananda Mathers
"Jesse Prinz has argued that empathy plays no important role in moral judgement, and further that it has a “dark side” which renders it by and large bad for morality. This paper challenges these conclusions and demonstrates that it is possible to meet Prinz’s objections by adopting a conceptualisation of empathy which combines elements of Martin Hoffman’s process-focussed definition of empathy with Michael Slote’s agent-centred approach to empathy’s functional role within morality. Beyond proving resilient in the face of Prinz’s attacks, such a conceptualisation of empathy also displays a degree of explanatory usefulness both within Prinz’s own brand of moral sentimentalism and the moral psychology literature more generally. Far from being bad for morality, empathy would appear to be a useful ally to a robust moral sentimentalism."




Videos

 

2005-02-09 - Is Empathy Important for Morality?

 

Molly Crockett and Jesse Prinz - Is Empathy Important for Morality?  
 Cambridge, UK

 

Professor Jesse Prinz (Philosophy, City University of New York)
Professor Molly Crockett (Neuroscience, University of Oxford)
Chaired by Dr Simone Schnall (Psychology, University of Cambridge)

Abstract

"Empathy is widely and increasingly heralded as an essential ingredient of morality. It is said to be necessary for moral development, moral motivation, and even for comprehending the moral domain. But is empathy really important for morality? Prof Jesse Prinz and Prof Molly Crockett will address these claims and engage in a discussion and Q&A session. Prof Prinz argues that empathy is in fact not necessary for morality, and it may even be harmful. Because empathy can bias us towards our near and dear, and blind us to demands of justice, we should look beyond empathy in developing recommendations about how to instill moral competence and encourage moral commitment.

For Prof Crockett, answering the question of whether empathy is necessary to morality has been difficult due to the limitations of methods for measuring morality in the lab. Most research on human morality has relied on hypothetical judgments but there is evidence that hypothetical judgments are poor predictors of real moral decisions. In her talk she will describe newly developed methods for quantifying morality in the lab and present the results of a series of behavioral experiments investigating how people disvalue the pain of strangers relative to their own pain. These studies provide empirical data bearing on the question of whether empathy is important and necessary for morality."

Outline

  • Molly Crockett

    • Empathy and Morality

    • Morality testing in the lab is problematic

    • imagine meteor is going to hit the earth

      • Adam Smith

      • tradeoff with a million lives and losing a finger

    • How to measure cost of pain - Studies

    • Empathy perspective - predicts if we feel others pain as your own then??

    • (back to Adam Smith)

    • Various tests

    • findings that people value harm to others more than for self.

    • how does empathy relate?

    • 30:00 Summary and conclusions

      • harm to others outweighs harm to self

      • empathy insufficient for explaining morality - people are nicer than an empathy account would predicts

      • evidence suggesting imperfect empathy drives hyper altruism

      • self-reported empathy related to harm aversion

  • 32:00 Jesse Prinz

    • being against empathy is hard

    • inductions of empathy - people use cute fussy pictures to manipulate others

    • definition - emotional mirroring

    • Empathy is all the moral rage - may not be and may be harmful to moral project

    • Some say we need to route material through empathy to determine what is right or wrong.

      • don't' think this is true

    • 41:30 - If you use empathy as a source of your moral knowledge, it will get you into trouble

    • Empathy's dark side

      • near and dear bias

      • give harsher sentences to other ethnic groups than our own

      • courtroom studies - emotional display get better judgments

    • empathy is a force to be good to your ingroup - that's it's job function,

    • it's not empathy that drives pro sociality but oneness

    • if you identify with the other, seem them as part of your groups then you will help them

      • the other is just like you, that is what is doing the work.

    • We go to war because we have such empathy bounded solidarity for our own group that when we see a threat we are willing to support military  intervention.

    • Solution

      •  formulate things in terms of injustice, cruelty, or give people a body count, that is a better motivator than empathy.

      • see the other as the same cause as you

      • other motivators, happiness, disgust, etc, better than invoking empathic pain.

      • protest marches - solidarity is the shared effect..
         

1/4 - Jesse Prinz lecture about morality -  Oct 18, 2011
"According to a long-standing tradition in philosophy, moral judgments are based on emotions; we decide whether something is wrong by seeing how it makes us feel. Recent research in psychology offers a wide range of evidence supporting this view, and extending our understanding of which emotions contribute. Neuroimaging studies add further support by confirming that moral judgments recruit brain structures associated with emotion. But some findings from neuroscience have been interpreted as providing evidence for a mixed view, which states that some moral judgments are emotionally based while others principally involve reason. An alternative interpretation of these findings in offered, according to which all moral judgments are rooted in emotions, but the emotions involved vary from case to case, and reason can play an important, though subsidiary, role.
Jesse Prinz studies the cognitive and neurological foundations of the mind, focusing particularly on emotional, experiential, and cultural contributions to thought and morality."

 

2/4 Jesse Prinz lecture about morality -  Oct 18, 2011
 

 

3/4 Jesse Prinz lecture about morality -  Oct 18, 2011
 

 

4/4 Jesse Prinz lecture about morality -  Oct 18, 2011
 

 

Neurophilosophy of Morality: The Role of Emotions
"Culturalist and Neurophilosopher Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and Director of CUNY's Mellon Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies, covers an encyclopaedic range of neuroscience-related topics - including empirical philosophy, evolution, culture, emotion, morality and consciousness - in his conversation with Critical Thought TV's Stuart Mason Dambrot. "

 

Experimental Philosophy
A brief description of the new 'experimental philosophy' movement.
 

 

 Nature + Nurture: Evolution and Culture
"Culturalist and Neurophilosopher Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center, and Director of CUNY's Mellon Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies, covers an encyclopaedic range of neuroscience-related topics - including empirical philosophy, evolution, culture, emotion, morality and consciousness - in his conversation with Critical Thought TV's Stuart Mason Dambrot."
 

 

Jesse Prinz "Is this a good moment for ethics?" pt 1
 

 

Living with Relativism
"Philosopher Jesse Prinz, distinguished professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York discusses "Living with Relativism: Can We Find a Common Good in a Morally Diverse World?" as part of the Jepson Leadership Forum on The Common Good. He examines the nature of the concept of good and argues that it cannot be expressed simply as a set of objective standards or a projection of individual preferences, but rather exists as a combination of the two. January 27, 2010"
 

 

 

 

2008-07-27 - Will Wilkinson and Jesse Prinz

  •  (UNC-Chapel Hill, The Emotional Construction of Morals)

  • Jesse's latest book, "The Emotional Construction of Morals"   13:55

  • Can a sincere moral judgment be emotionless?   10:48

  • Jesse contends that morality isn't innate   5:02

  • Why so much cruelty is permitted in so many societies   9:17

  • How humans cobble together their moral systems   10:56

  • Relativist avenues to moral progress   -1:-53:-10