Michael E. Morrell is Associate Professor, University of
Connecticut. He teaches a range of political theory courses at the
undergraduate level, including Introduction to Political Theory, American
Political Thought and Ideology, Modern Political Theory, and Democratic
Theory. Graduate seminars he has taught include the Proseminar in Political
Theory, the Theory and Behavior of Democracy, and Public Reason and
His main research interests examine the connections between
empathy and democracy, the effects of direct democratic participation on
citizens, and the role of political efficacy in democracy, public opinion,
and political behavior. He is also continuing to explore his theory of the
role of empathy in democracy as it relates to topics ranging from
President Barack Obama to agonistic democracy. Michael is author of
Democracy: Feeling, Thinking, and Deliberation. He writes:
"Today's democracies are still struggling to fulfill
promise of equal consideration, and the claim I will defend
is that they can do so most fully by giving
empathy a central role in democratic
"I believe this is due, at least in part, to their tendencies to
fall back upon conceptualizations of reflection, rationality,
and reasoning that give precedence to cognition
over affect in human judgment."
"Democracy harbors within it fundamental
tensions between the ideal of giving everyone equal consideration and the
reality of having to make legitimate, binding collective decisions.
Democracies have granted political rights to more groups of people, but
formal rights have not always guaranteed equal consideration or democratic
It is Michael Morrell's argument in this book that empathy plays a crucial
role in enabling democratic deliberation to function the way it should.
Drawing on empirical studies of empathy, including his own, Morrell offers
a "process model of empathy" that incorporates both affect and cognition.
He shows how this model can help democratic theorists who emphasize the
importance of deliberation answer their critics."
There is a promise inherent in democracy: before a society makes
decisions that it will use its collective power to enforce, it will give
equal consideration to everyone in the community. The development of
collective decision-making institutions that take into consideration a
wider range of interests did not begin with the rise of modern
democracies are still struggling to fulfill democracy's promise of
equal consideration, and the claim I will defend is that they can do
so most fully by giving empathy a central role in democratic
decision-making. Without empathy, large modern societies cannot
give citizens the kind of equal consideration necessary to make
democratic decisions legitimate. To demonstrate why this is the case,
I draw upon a unique combination of theoretical positions regarding
democracy and empathy and empirical research on the effects of empathy
and the role of emotions in politics, including some of my own
and exclusion of participation -
Consideration and Collective Decision-Making: Response in Democratic
the tension between equal consideration and collective
decision-making in a democracy through some form of deliberation"
"I believe we
can improve deliberative theory by giving a greater place to empathy
is that most deliberative theorists have not done enough to address
either the role of affect or empathy in a deliberative democracy."
necessary not just for Goodwin's "deliberation within," but
deliberative theory that strives to attain the communication between
citizens that is the basis of deliberative democracy."
Ch 2 -
"preliminary description of the role of affect in deliberation"
Ch 3 -
intellectual history of empathy
Ch 4 - use
empathy process model and relate deliberative theorists to it.
Ch 5 -
empirical evidence to demonstrate that deliberative democracy
requires empathy to function correctly.
Ch 6 -
relate critiques of deliberation to further clarify empathy's
Ch 7 -
alternative conceptualization of deliberation
"I end by
developing some of the implications for the democratic process
of a deliberative theory that takes empathy seriously"
2. The Deliberative Turn in Democratic Theory For the past several decades, democratic theory has taken a deliberative
turn, and yet, as Samuel Freeman notes, “There is no settled and
commonly accepted account of the central features of a deliberative
democracy among political scientists and theorists” (2000, 373). In
order to recognize why deliberative democracy ought to take affect and
empathy more seriously,...
Deliberation as Reflective Decision-Making
and Public Reason: John Rawls
and Rationality: Jurgen Hagermas
Deliberation and Affect
"One of the
reasons deliberative democrats miss the importance of empathy is that
they have not sufficiently addressed the role of affect in
deliberation. I believe this is due, at least in part, to their
tendencies to fall back upon conceptualizations of reflection,
rationality, and reasoning that give precedence to cognition over
affect in human judgment."
3. The Elusive Concept of Empathy As Nancy Eisenberg and Janet Strayer explain, “Because of its
wide-ranging application, the notion of empathy is, and always has been,
a broad, some-what slippery concept—one that has provoked considerable
speculation, excitement, and confusion” (1987, 3). Jonathan Levy goes
even further to state that the “word empathy has been troublesome since
it entered the...
the word/concept of empathy]
Aesthetics, and Wit
- explaining aesthetic appreciation
- conceiving Einfuhlung as including reactions to humans
- "Freud imbues Einfuhlung with a much stronger sense of cognition
than his predecessors..."
Confusion of Empathy
Titchener - translates Einfuhlung into English as the word empathy.
particular instance, the picture is combined with an empathic
attitude: all such 'feelings' - feelings of it, and why, and
nevertheless, and therefore - normally take the form, in my
experience, of motor empathy" (Titchener 185)
- reflects the problematic state of the concept of empathy
Empathy as a Cognitive Process: Psychotherapy
Neal E. Miller
empathy "a powerful force for change and growth"
- "It is a growing belief among empathy theorists and researchers that
there are both affective and cognitive components to empathic
response. Davis "
defining empathy solely as affective responses or cognitive reactions,
the multidimensional approach recognizes that affect and cognition are
intertwined in empathy."
Michael uses the Davis Model of
Empathy as the empathy framework.
Martha Nussbaum - "Nussbaum discusses the relationship between empathy and
compassion, while her substantive conclusion is that "empathy is a
mental ability highly relevant to compassion, although it is both
fallible and morally neutral""
"I believe we
should follow Rogers instead and model empathy as a process, not a
state: I will therefore refer to this as the process model of empathy.
This will clarify that empathy is not, in and of itself, a feeling and
will focus our attention on those factors that influence the process,
the mechanism by which it occurs, and the various outcomes that can
result from empathizing."
Empathy and Sympathy
Adam Smith and
Hume - "call "sympathy" as one of the outcomes of empathizing."
4. Empathy in Deliberative Theory Most deliberative theorists pay scant specific attention to empathy, and
while using the process model of empathy reveals that this silence is
not as pervasive as it may seem on the surface, their theories still
miss some of empathy’s important contributions. In order for theories of
deliberative democracy to address the tension between equal
consideration and legitimacy, we must...
theorists pays scant attention to empathy, and while using the process
model of empathy reveals that this silence is not as pervasive at it
may seem on the surface, their theories still miss some of empathy's
Ignoring Empathy: Deliberation
as Reflective Decision-Making
Empathy: Rawls, the Original Position, and Public Reason
Susan Moller Okin
Inhibiting Empathy: Hagermas and the Generalized Other
G. H. Mead
"Habermas follows Mead in focusing on ideal role taking, not just
any form of role taking. Empathy serves ideal role taking by
allowing us to understand how others feel about a moral norm..."
"The inclusion of moral feelings and empathy as a necessary
disposition in moral discourse, I believe, results from Habermas's
recognition that excluding feelings from moral discourse is
untenable and unrealistic."
Incremental Inclusion of Empathy: Deliberative
"Deliberative theorists who follow Rawls and Habermas closely also
focus exclusively on the cognitive or role-taking dimension of
empathy and unsurprisingly pay little attention to its affective
James Bohman: Uptake in Deliberation
William Rehg: Reason and Emotion
"Attempts to incorporate empathy into the moral point of view suggest
that 'feeling' (in some sense) could actually improve one's
understanding for the other's position, and thus allow for fairer
Seya Benhabib: The Generalized Other and the Concrete
Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson; Reciprocity and Mutual
little to say about empathy
Jane Mansbridge: Beyond Adversary Democracy
references empathy fairly frequently
empathy creation of common interests
"Empathy can lead individuals to make another's good their own.
Individual interests do not then overlap; instead, the separate
individuals fuse, in a sense, into one" Mansbridge
parallel effect response
"the rule of consensus seems not only to reflect empathy but to
create it" Mansbridge
Robert Goodin: Internal-Reflective Deliberation
empathetic imaging can substitute for interpersonal conversations
"We have seen the most deliberative theorists focus primarily on the
cognitive proactive of perspective taking, and they often argue
for this in generalized or abstract terms."
Notes: reason, rational argument, affect, little or no time discussing
empathy, most deliberative theorists focus mainly on cognitive empathy
- perspective/role taking
5. Empathy's Importance- The Empirical Evidence We now have a model of the empathic process that allows us to discuss
the various aspects of empathy in a more complete way, but I have yet to
make the case that such an account is vital to our understanding of
deliberative democracy. There are both empirical and theoretical reasons
why I believe that the process model of empathy I have defended is
examples of the tendency for deliberative groups to polarize
and helping behaviour
and the Commitment to Continued Deliberation
Implications of Empirical Research
highly likely that we need citizens to engage in the process of
empathy if deliberative democracy is to function properly."
"we ought to
include empathy as pat of democratic education"
"try to induce
empathy in the deliberative democratic system itself."
demonstrate that we need to entirely recast deliberative theory by
placing the empathic process at the heart of deliberation. This is the
only way for us to insure that democracy can move toward fulfilling
its promise to give all citizens equal consideration and still allow
for legitimate democratic decisions,"
6. Deliberative Democracy and its Critics The empirical evidence indicates that the process of empathy is
necessary if deliberative democracy is going to function as conceived in
the core deliberative theories. Without empathizing citizens,
deliberative democracy will likely be no more than a talkative form of
aggregative democracy. Yet there is an alternative, further-reaching
conclusion suggested by this evidence: constructing a theory of
deliberative democracy with the process model of empathy required a
shift in our thinking about the purpose of deliberation and it's
connection to democratic legitimacy.
Affect, cognition, and Reason
The Centrality of Effect in Political Reasoning
Giving affect Its Place: Deliberation and Empathy
believe that deliberative theory can answer the criticisms of
political psychologists and political theorists by relying upon the
process model of empathy."
Deliberative Theorists on Rhetoric, Greeting, Narrative, and Testimony
7. Empathy and Democracy Democracy needs the process of empathy. At the end of Chapter 5 I argued
that deliberative theories, in order to address the empirical evidence,
had to take the empathic process more seriously. The theoretical
critiques surveyed in the previous chapter, though, make even more
serious claims about the viability of deliberative democracy. The most
persuasive way to...
persuasive way to answer those claims is to adopt a new model of
deliberation that gives empathy a central place in democracy. Even
more important, adopting a model of deliberative democracy that
incorporates the process of empathy will allow me to demonstrate how
democracy can make legitimate decisions while fulfilling its promise
to give equal consideration to all citizens."
Deliberation, Reflective Consideration and Empathy
is that democracy can deal with this problem by defining democracy as
deliberation that puts empathy at its heart..."
demonstrated empathy's centrality to deliberation, we can now provide
a final definition: deliberation is a practice in which people
contemplate a political object by engaging in an inclusive, attentive
'communicative exchange that promotes the exchange of information and
the process of empathy.
Empathy's Role in Deliberation
Model of Empathy and the Limits of Communication
Justification, and Manin's Challenge
deliberative theory that takes empathy seriously leads to a more equal
consideration of all affected by decisions. Yet democracy still
involves making collective decisions that must be legitimate, and so
now I turn to the question of how deliberation with a focus on
empathy can support democratic legitimacy."
of empathy is necessary for democratic legitimacy because it insures
that majorities will make decisions with better knowledge of what
those decisions mean."
empathize not only understand the logical arguments of those with whom
they disagree, the will gain a better knowledge of the thoughts and
feelings that inform those arguments."
that deliberative reflections include empathy will make it more likely
that majorities are conscious of how their actions affect minorities,
and if this leads to hesitation by majorities, in most cases well be a
positive development. Yet empathy also required minorities to
empathize with majorities, and so it does not ask that one side
sacrifice more that the other. Empathy may also lead minorities to
realize more keenly what they are asking for when they claim that the
majority should not decide as they intend."
"The more the
deliberation that precedes a decision includes all citizen in a free
exchange of perspectives and induces them to empathize with one
another, the more legitimate it will be."
Feasibility of Deliberative Democracy
having to assimilate individuals or groups under discourses,
deliberation that includes empathy allows people to consider the
interests of many individuals and groups, even those who cannot speak
- the excluded, the environment, nonhuman species, and those not yet
of empathy is the only viable way to overcome the problems of economy
by making all citizens present in democratic deliberation to as great
an extent as possible, yet we must not limit empathy only to formal
political institutions. "
Problems of Deliberation in Practice
Even Want to Deliberate
the Democratic Promise
the Democratic Practice
Financing, Lobbying, and a Federal Deliberation Commission
the Democratic Promise
placing empathy at the heart of deliberation can democracy fulfill its
promise of allowing legitimate decisions that give equal consideration
to all those in society."
Democracy demonstrates the importance of empathy in the deliberative
practices that make democratic government legitimate. Deftly
interweaving empirical research on the role of empathy in deliberation
with a normative theory of democratic legitimacy, Morrell delivers a
thoroughly researched, carefully argued book that will significantly
revise conventional notions of how democratic deliberation ought to be
conducted. It is valuable not only for the conceptual clarification it
provides, but also for the way that it ties normative theorizing about
democratic deliberation and legitimacy to empirically verifiable facts
about human psychology and patterns of social interaction.” Sharon R.
Krause, Brown University
"The answer to these difficult questions is simple for Morrell. Empathy
can help us become better democrats."
"Empathy serves as Morrell's critical wedge to evaluate the current
state of deliberative theory. "
"For Morrell, empathy leads
openness toward others (125),
mutual respect (115),
attentiveness, cooperation (116) and fairness.
Empathy also leads to ‘legitimate, justified democratic
decision-making that truly takes all into consideration’ (194).
Without empathy, democracy will be a broken promise."
"One of the challenges for democracies is to not only
give voice to citizens, but to ensure that collective decision making
considers the views of all citizens equally. To Michael Morrell, one way
to do this is by integrating empathy into deliberation. In Empathy and
Democracy, Morrell explores the place for empathy within deliberative
politics, particularly in communications between citizens but also in
the internal consideration implied by deliberative reasoning.
Scholars of deliberative theory have traditionally emphasized the
importance of reason over emotion and cognition over affect. When people
are emotional about politics, we worry that their passions will disrupt
the deliberative process and distract them from careful contemplation of
the evidence. But in the empirical study of citizen behavior within
political psychology, there is increasing recognition that emotions are
not antithetical to deliberative democracy. Emotional reactions of fear
and anxiety can encourage attentiveness and learning, and feelings of
enthusiasm can inspire political engagement. In light of these empirical
findings, Morrell argues that affect deserves greater consideration in
theoretically defining the practice of deliberative democracy."