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Our Better Angels : Empathy, Sympathetic Reason, and Pragmatic Moral Progress

Our Better Angels : Empathy, Sympathetic Reason, and Pragmatic Moral Progress kory sorrell Bilkent University Introduction Empathy is the ability to infer and share the feelings, intentions, and goals of other persons.1 It provides the basis for our extraordinary capacity to help others, including strangers we may never meet, without interest in personal benefit. Its extent has been controversial, but recent studies in neuroscience, empirical psychology, and primatology support a highly empathic understanding of human nature. This view overturns the so-called "Darwinian" paradigm prevalent both in popular imagination and academic disciplines.2 The "Darwinian" account--in quotes because distant from Darwin's own express views3--holds that "man is a wolf to man" (homo homini lupus); that individuals are self-maximizing and manipulative, even when seemingly kind to others (a common joke among psychologists: "scratch an `altruist' and watch a `hypocrite' bleed"); and that "Mother Nature" rewards the strong and discards the weak ("the devil take the hindmost").4 As Richard A. Posner writes, "Darwin's picture of nature is bleak; it is dog eat dog in virtually a literal sense; the adaptionist process that produced us is genocidal."5 But recent studies support a different picture, a kinder one, in which persons are naturally attuned to one another, cannot help feeling what others feel, and spontaneously http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Pluralist University of Illinois Press

Our Better Angels : Empathy, Sympathetic Reason, and Pragmatic Moral Progress

The Pluralist , Volume 9 (1) – Mar 1, 2014

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
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Copyright © University of Illinois Press
ISSN
1944-6489
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Abstract

kory sorrell Bilkent University Introduction Empathy is the ability to infer and share the feelings, intentions, and goals of other persons.1 It provides the basis for our extraordinary capacity to help others, including strangers we may never meet, without interest in personal benefit. Its extent has been controversial, but recent studies in neuroscience, empirical psychology, and primatology support a highly empathic understanding of human nature. This view overturns the so-called "Darwinian" paradigm prevalent both in popular imagination and academic disciplines.2 The "Darwinian" account--in quotes because distant from Darwin's own express views3--holds that "man is a wolf to man" (homo homini lupus); that individuals are self-maximizing and manipulative, even when seemingly kind to others (a common joke among psychologists: "scratch an `altruist' and watch a `hypocrite' bleed"); and that "Mother Nature" rewards the strong and discards the weak ("the devil take the hindmost").4 As Richard A. Posner writes, "Darwin's picture of nature is bleak; it is dog eat dog in virtually a literal sense; the adaptionist process that produced us is genocidal."5 But recent studies support a different picture, a kinder one, in which persons are naturally attuned to one another, cannot help feeling what others feel, and spontaneously

Journal

The PluralistUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Mar 1, 2014

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