Empathy, Simulation, and Neuroscience: A Phenomenological Case Against Simulation Theory

Phenomenology and Mind 12:208-216 (2017)
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In recent years, some simulation theorists have claimed that the discovery of mirror neurons provides empirical support for the position that mind reading is, at some basic level, simulation. The purpose of this essay is to question that claim. I begin by providing brief context for the current mind reading debate and then developing an influential simulationist account of mind reading. I then draw on the works of Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein to develop an alternative, phenomenological account. In conclusion, I offer multiple objections against simulation theory and argue that the empirical evidence mirror neurons offer us does not necessarily support the view that empathy is simulation.

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Timothy Burns
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota


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