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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Mark Fagiano

A Relational Definition and Model of Empathy
Mark Fagiano

Mark Fagiano is a philosophy professor at Washington State University who specializes in American pragmatism and ethics. Mark is the founder of Empathy Vision, which offers empathy-activation solutions through seminars, workshops, and online courses. He is author of Practicing Empathy: Pragmatism and the Value of Relations.  Grounded in the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism, Mark's approach demonstrates the practical benefits of adopting a broad and pluralistic understanding of empathy as both an idea and a practice.

In this dialogue, we discuss Mark's relational definition of empathy and discuss each chapter of his book in-depth. We also discuss how the Empathy Circle practice fits into his definition.

1. Empathy and Pluralism
2. Pathos and the Death of Dualisms

3. Empathic Projections - Feeling Into

4. Empathic Connections - Feeling With
5. Empathic Care - Feeling For
6. Is Empathy Moral?
7. Can Empathy Be Developed?
8. Empathic Democracy as a Way of Life



A Relational Definition and Model of Empathy




Practicing Empathy: Pragmatism and the Value of Relations
Mark Fagiano


"There is widespread disagreement over what constitutes an experience of empathy. In this study of its value and moral features, Mark Fagiano acknowledges the ambiguity surrounding the term and offers a unified theory of empathy that includes rival definitions.

His historical account of the multiple meanings of empathy lays the groundwork for a new philosophical theory. Based on relations, it resolves the problem of conflicting definitions of empathy by distinguishing between the three kinds of empathy: the relations of feeling into, feeling with, and feeling for, each of which has been defined historically as a type of empathy. Fagiano's unique focus on relations, on the modes and manner by which we are connected with things and with people, reveals a transactional account of empathy that can be applied to a variety of different contexts and social circumstances.

Grounded in the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism, Fagiano's approach demonstrates the practical benefits of adopting a broad and pluralistic understanding of empathy as both an idea and a practice. His pragmatic and contextualist philosophy of empathy provides a valuable starting point for answering some of the most pressing questions surrounding empathy today, including can empathy be developed? Is empathy moral? What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?"





Articles and Videos

What is Relational Empathy?
Relational Empathy is a pluralistic learning approach for teaching empathy that draws from and incorporates different understanding of empathy as they have been articulated in the disciplines of aestheticism, psychology, primatology, philosophy, medical ethics, and neuroscience. The theory of relational empathy was constructed for the purpose of creating a broad and inclusive perspective of empathy suitable for changing habits of behavior and transforming organizational culture. 


Relational Empathy
Mark Fagiano 
University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA
 09 Apr 2019

"This work explains the practical benefits of a new and pluralistic notion of empathy that I call relational empathy. Rather than defining empathy as a thing or an activity, as most scholars have done, I define empathy as a set of three conceptually distinct though experientially overlapping relations: the relations of feeling into, feeling with, and feeling for. I then turn to historical discourses about empathy from the late 1700s to the present to demonstrate how different conceptualizations and definitions of empathy during this time span are descriptions of one, two or all three of these relations.


 I then explain how relational empathy has the potential both to dissolve mere verbal disputes about what empathy is and to shift our attention away from narrowly conceived theories about the ‘nature’ of empathy and toward more practical concerns. Finally, I explain how my theory of relational empathy can help to resolve a number of problems throughout the healthcare system."



The Real Difference between Empathy and Sympathy: Part One
"Type "the difference between empathy and sympathy" into a search engine and you will find a host of differing opinions.  Actually, don't do that. There is no "real," single difference between #empathy and #sympathy (sorry about the joke), but there are many differences between these notions.  Let's start with one similarity: each term is a social construct and people, over time, construct the meaning of terms for their own aims, interests, and purposes. "



The Future of Empathy Chapter One
April 30, 2018
Mark Fagiano
"What Is Empathy?
Now, in which part of this story did you experience empathy? According to a very common way of thinking about it today, you experienced empathy only when you took the perspectives of the victims.[1] People often refer to empathy in this way, as “walking in another’s shoes” or “living under another’s skin,” each of which signifies a mode of empathy commonly called empathic perspective-taking: an imaginative simulation of another’s experiences. But there are two types of perspective-taking, and these are sometimes conflated. For example, you can imagine how you (as you) would think and feel about a given situation if you were the other person or you can take another person’s perspective by imagining how that person thinks and feels about his/her situation. C. Daniel Batson refers to this first option as imagine-self perspective and the second as imagine-other perspective."


A Pluralistic Approach to Understanding and Practicing Empathy.
June 30, 2016
"Over the last few centuries, theorists have defined empathy in a number of ways. And what is remarkable about this history is that no two theorists defined empathy in the same way.

Carl Rogers’ (1902-1987) definition of empathy is different from that of Theodor Lipps (1851-1914), each of which are different from Robert Vischer’s (1847-1933) description of empathy, and all three of these theorists' definitions are quite unlike the way Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) defined it.  Definitions of empathy change, and every scholar of empathy is well aware of this fact.  These multiple ways of explaining empathy create a problem, namely: accepting one definition over another breeds conceptual confusion and disagreement about our experiences, and a consequence of this is the emergence of inconsequential verbal disputes. "


Empathy in Healthcare: Good for the Body and Good for Your Bottom Line.
May 9, 2016
"The habitual practice of empathy among healthcare professionals is widely accepted as crucial for delivering high quality healthcare, producing successful medical outcomes, developing a culture around patient-centered care, and helping an organization to exceed its bottom line goals. An organization's ability to produce consistently these four positive outcomes is contingent upon an its capacity to overcome a number of significant and pressing problems. For example:"


Courses taught by Mark Fagiano Ph.D.
Developing Empathy: How the Practice of Empathy Contributes to Your Relationship with Your Partner
Over 22 lectures and 2.5 hours of content!

Section 1: Introduction to the Purpose, Aim, and Structure of this Course
Section 2: What is Empathy?
Section 3: Empathy as Feeling-into
Section 4: Empathy as Feeling-with
Section 5: Empathy as Feeling-for
Section 6: Part Two: Empathy and the Seven Dynamics of Flourishing Relationships



The Five Ways Empathy Will Help your Relationship



What is Empathy?



The History of Projective Empathy: Romanticism and Art


Empathy for Objects?


The Three Habits of Empathy