Date of Award
Dr. Simon Fitzpatrick
Many people believe that empathy is necessary for being morally “good”, such that empathy is fundamental to our moral sense. Yet, there is much debate about what empathy is and whether or not it is, in fact, a good thing. My goal is to explore and evaluate this debate. In the first part of the paper, I discuss common misconceptions of empathy and provide a taxonomy of different sorts of empathy. I will then address whether empathy is good by evaluating the arguments for and against empathy from David Hume, Michael Slote, Jesse Prinz, Paul Bloom, Peter Goldie, and Denise Cummins. I will argue that empathy is a poor moral guide because it is subject to various biases, easily manipulated, and unreliable. I will therefore conclude that it is unclear what empathy is, in fact, good for and that better alternatives for moral guides exist.
Dougherty, Colleen, "Empathy: What is it, What is it Good For?" (2019). Senior Honors Projects. 119.
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