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Philosophy in the Contemporary World

Volume 20, Issue 1, Spring 2013

Jakob Eklund
Pages 28-38

The Nature of Empathy

This paper addresses the question of the nature of empathy, and attempts to develop a unified understanding of empathy, and thereby overcome the split perspective that is present in current literature. Based on previous definitions, I present my own account of empathy as feeling the other's feeling. In an analysis of this new definition, empathy is characterized as feeling with the two constituents of understanding and care. Empathic understanding ensures that empathic care will lead to appropriate actions. A consequence of describing empathy as a feeling with the two constituents of understanding and care is that we are not forced to choose between the two main tracks in the empathy literature, empathy as understanding and empathy as care, but are instead at ease with both sides.

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