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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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Empathy for Objects 1

Empathy for Objects 1

(p.82) 6 Empathy for Objects1

Gregory Currie

Oxford University Press

We think of empathy as an intimate, feeling‐based understanding of another's inner life. We do not think of it as a way of understanding inanimate objects. Yet a century ago, talk of empathy for objects would have seemed very natural; it was the theme of a group of thinkers whose writings helped to found the notion of empathy itself. They were particularly interested in empathy as a means of attending to the aesthetic properties of things. I examine some versions of this program, and then move on to see what light can be shed on their idea of empathy for objects by current research in the sciences of mind. I identify a class of processes which, I claim, underlie empathy for objects as well as personal empathy; these processes are often called simulative in a special sense that I will explain. I then have two questions to which I seek answers of at least a preliminary sort. What sort of access to worldly things is it that we are given by these simulative processes; is it, in particular, a perceptual form of access? Second, what role if any does awareness of these processes play in our aesthetic encounters with things?

Keywords:   empathy, simulation, Lipps, art works, perception, aesthetic experience

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