Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Imagining and KnowingThe Shape of Fiction$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Gregory Currie

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780199656615

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199656615.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 July 2021

Fiction and empathy

Fiction and empathy

Chapter:
(p.199) 11 Fiction and empathy
Source:
Imagining and Knowing
Author(s):

Gregory Currie

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199656615.003.0012

It is often claimed that fiction refines and enlarges our empathic sensitivities to morally charged situations, exposing us to exemplars—imaginary ones—of demanding, complex situations beyond those we are likely to encounter in daily life, expanding the circle of those we care about and our ability to help them. I begin by outlining a concept of empathy useful for our discussions, and offer some reasons for thinking that empathy is not always to be thought of as aiding moral reflection or leading to morally good outcomes. I then review some of the evidence relevant to assessing fiction’s impact on our empathic tendencies, finding a somewhat mixed picture. In light of this I list a variety of ways that fictions may fail to deliver empathic benefits. Finally I look in some detail at the phenomenon of ‘moral self-licencing’, which suggests that at least one of these possible ways really is a barrier to the enlargement of empathy by fiction.

Keywords:   empathy, sympathy, fiction, moral reasons, moral self-licencing

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .