51st Annual Cincinnati Philosophy Colloquium

"Perspectives on Empathy"

An interdisciplinary conference on the import and centrality of empathy to human and interspecies wellbeing, legal responsibility, art appreciation, interpersonal relations, and ethics.

September 11 - 12, 2015

University of Cincinnati

407 Annie Laws, Teachers College
2602 McMicken Circle 
Cincinnati, OH 45221

Sponsored by the Department of Philosophy 

Free and Open to the Public.

Click Here for Printable Schedule

Jenefer Robinson

Jenefer Robinson, University of Cincinnati

Jenefer Robinson, University of Cincinnati
Friday, September 11, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Empathy through/with/for Music 
According to Joel Krueger, the tender reciprocal relationship that develops between mother and infant when the mother sings to the baby and the baby responds is a species of empathy. More broadly, Kathleen Higgins has recently argued that music "promotes feelings of affinity with other people," and that music encourages an "open-minded empathic stance," especially towards one's fellow performers or fellow listeners. By contrast, Stephen Davies has emphasized that people sometimes empathize with music itself: just as people take on the emotions of those with whom they interact via a process of emotional contagion, so listeners can take on the emotions expressed by music in similar fashion. Moreover, when the dramatic protagonists of songs or the characters in operas or musicals express their personal emotions through words and music, listeners may feel for such protagonists or characters as well as with them. In this paper I will discuss to what extent, if any, we really do empathize through, with and/or for music.

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen, Wesleyan University

Lori Gruen, Wesleyan University
Friday, September 11, 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM

"Empathy - A Defense"
ABSTRACT:  Empathy, while generally thought to be a good thing practiced by good people, has come in for a fair bit of criticism lately.  In this paper, I'll explore the empathy skeptics' concerns, paying particular attention to the disparate ways that empathy is understood and conceptualized by both proponents and critics.  I'll then analyze what I take to be a particularly strong challenge to ethical views that emerge from the moral sentiments, namely, that there are no principled grounds for correction.  I will discuss my view of entangled empathy as a response to this challenge.

Heidi Maibom

Heidi Maibom, University of Cincinnati

Heidi Maibom University of Cincinnati
Saturday, September 12, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Being someone else

"Put yourself in my shoes" people sometimes say when they want us to understand what they are going through. The method is also appealed to for conflict resolution. But what do we actually do when we imagine being in someone else's position, and does it have the effects that people claim for it? In this talk, I explore perspective taking via philosophy, psychology, and popular culture. Perspective taking is a complex triangulation between two individuals and a situation, where there is a blending of self and other. I argue that taking another’s perspective is more about understanding that your view of the world expresses a particular perspective, and about reaching a more encompassing and objective view of the world around us, than it is about understanding the intricacies about another's experience. I will also challenge the idea that taking the other person’s perspective in a conflict situation is useful. What works is to relinquish our own particular perspective on the situation for a minute, and take the perspective of a disinterested, objective, but sympathetic observer, not that of the person we are in conflict with.

Remi Debes, University of Memphis

Remi Debes, University of Memphis

Remy Debes, University of Memphis
Saturday, September 12, 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

"Understanding as Respect(ing)"
What is it to understand another person? In this talk I first clarify the content of claims to understand persons and correspondingly the nature of such understanding itself. Second, and more importantly, I advance the following further thesis about such understanding: understanding another person sometimes just is a way of respecting her. More precisely, I will argue that our ordinary understanding person claims are best explained as a kind of "perspectival" understanding (understanding a person’s perspective), that this variety of understanding can fairly be called empathic, and that this understanding in some sense constitutes respecting those we understand.