In Defense of Empathy: A response to Prinz

Abstracta 8 (2):31-51 (2015)
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Abstract

A prevailing view in moral psychology holds that empathy and sympathy play key roles in morality and in prosocial and altruistic actions. Recently, Jesse Prinz (2011a, 2011b) has challenged this view and has argued that empathy does not play a foundational or causal role in morality. He suggests that in fact the presence of empathetic emotions is harmful to morality. Prinz rejects all theories that connect empathy and morality as a constitutional, epistemological, developmental, motivational, or normative necessity. I consider two of Prinz’s theses: the thesis that empathy is not necessary for moral development, and the thesis that empathy should be avoided as a guide for morality. Based on recent research in moral psychology, I argue that empathy plays a crucial role in development of moral agency. I also argue that empathy is desirable as a moral emotion.

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Claudia Passos-Ferreira
New York University

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