Online Seminar: “Re-thinking Empathy: From Simulation to Reception”

Tuesday 18 August 2020, 4-5:30pm via Zoom. All welcome, for Zoom login details please contact

Katsunori Miyahara (Center for Human Nature, Artificial Intelligence, and Neuroscience (CHAIN), Hokkaido University, Japan), “Re-thinking Empathy: From Simulation to Reception”

On one common sense of the term, empathy refers to a form of mental act in which one understands another by sharing in her perspective on the world. Simulation accounts of empathy conceive of this in terms of imaginative perspective-taking: that is, the act of imagining what it would be like for the other to be in a specific situation. In this talk, I challenge this view of empathy in three steps. First, I illustrate that empathy in practice sometimes depends heavily on the act of listening to the other. Four distinctive features of this type of empathy will be identified. Second, I argue that this form of empathy depends on the capacity to engage receptively with the other in question. Third, I show that these cases of empathy cannot be adequately explained within the simulationist framework. In sum, I advance a novel conception of empathy, which envisions it not so much as a matter of internal simulation, but rather as an embodied practice of engaging with the other while paying her due epistemic respect.