Husserl and Stein on the phenomenology of empathy: perception and explication

Synthesis Philosophica 29 (2):273-288 (2014)
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Within the phenomenological tradition, one frequently finds the bold claim that interpersonal understanding is rooted in a sui generis form of intentional experience, most commonly labeled empathy (Einfühlung). The following paper explores this claim, emphasizing its distinctive character, and examining the phenomenological considerations offered in its defense by two of its main proponents, Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein. After offering in section 2 some preliminary indications of how empathy should be understood, I then turn to some characterizations of its distinctive structure, considering, in section 3, the Husserlian claim that certain forms of empathy are perceptual in nature, and in section 4, Stein’s insistence that empathetic experience frequently involves explicating the other’s own intentional experiences. Section 5 concludes by assessing the extent to which their analyses lead support to a conception of empathy as an intuitive experience of other minds.
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