Philosophy TV Managing Editors

David Killoren (Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Australian Catholic University)

Jonathan Lang (Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, University of Wisconsin-Madison)


Shaun Gallagher and Karsten Stueber

Shaun Gallagher (left) and Karsten Stueber (right) on empathy.

Most people possess a substantial (although also limited) ability to know and understand the actions, intentions, and desires of other people. In this conversation, Gallagher and Stueber examine the notion of empathy and its importance for debates in the philosophy of mind. They ask: What is empathy? Is empathy an automatic process, or does it require effort? What are the neurological and psychological processes involved in empathy? Does our ability to empathize provide us with a reliable guide to the contents of others’ minds, or does empathy routinely mislead us?

Related works

by Gallagher:
“Neurons, neonates and narrative: From embodied resonance to empathic understanding” in Foolen, Lüdtke, Racine and Zlatev (eds.), Moving Ourselves, Moving Others: Motion and Emotion in intersubjectivity, consciousness, and language (forthcoming)
“Comment: Three Questions for Stueber” (2012)
Brainstorming: Views and Interviews on the Mind (2008)

by Stueber:
“Varieties of Empathy, Neuroscience and the Narrativist Challenge to the Contemporary Theory of Mind Debate” (2012)
SEP entry on empathy (2008)
Rediscovering Empathy: Agency, Folk Psychology, and the Human Sciences (2006)


2 comments to Shaun Gallagher and Karsten Stueber

  • David swift

    your discussion locates empathy at the individual level, what is the term and meaning when people attempt to empathise with large groups experiences. such as a reporter, reporting on a mobs anger about a issue.

    • Karsten Stueber

      Interesting question, your question however raises tons of difficult philosophical issues such as whether or not group have minds and so on. Assuming that it does (although I am a bit unsure who is feeling angry if the US feels angry,for example, it is probably easier to attribute intentions and so on to collective agents), I just would think we treat groups in this sense in analogy to individual agents. More importantly though, empathy here can only be understood as cognitively advanced perspective taking as more basic level of empathy seem to require a face to face encounter between individuals.