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EmpathyPhilosophical and Psychological Perspectives$
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Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199539956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199539956.001.0001

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Is Empathy a Virtue?

Is Empathy a Virtue?

Chapter:
(p.277) 16 Is Empathy a Virtue?
Source:
Empathy
Author(s):

Heather D. Battaly

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199539956.003.0017

Pre-theoretically, we conceive of empathy as a moral virtue. Philosophers and psychologists have tried to improve on our pre-theoretical concept of empathy. This chapter argues that if their ‘improved’ concepts of empathy are correct, then empathy is not a virtue. Section 1 enumerates four different concepts of empathy: (1) empathy as caring, and/or sharing, and/or knowing (our pre-theoretical concept); (2) empathy as sharing by multiple means; (3) empathy as sharing and knowing; and (4) empathy as knowing by multiple means. Section 2 introduces the main features of virtues, skills, and capacities. Using virtue ethics and virtue epistemology, it argues that there are three differences between virtues and skills. Section 3 contends that empathy as construed by concepts (2), (3), and (4) is neither a moral nor an intellectual virtue. If empathy is voluntary and reliable, it is a skill. If it is involuntary, it is a capacity.

Keywords:   empathy, virtue, skill, capacity, moral virtue, intellectual virtue, virtue ethics, virtue epistemology

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