Empathy seen by philosophy

06 Jan

A disciple of Edmund Husserl, it was Edith Stein who worked more deeply on the theme of empathy, however the master dealt with the theme in his famous Paris Conferences or Cartesian Meditations in which the Cartesian method is reviewed, it can be said that part of this review is the discovery of empathy, or the relationship with the Other.

As in every philosophy there must be a fundamental question to be investigated and in this case it is the question: “how can I clarify this, if the principle that everything that is for me only in intentional life can acquire meaning and intentional confirmation remains untouchable? ”, it is in the solution of this question that the theme empathy appears, put in this way:

“We lack here an authentic phenomenological explanation of the transcendental operativeness of intropathy and, to this end, as it is in question, of putting-out-of-the-value abstractly of others and of all the strata of meaning of my surrounding world that grow for me from the validity of the experience of others” (HUSSERL, 2013, p. 33).

Intentionality is a fundamental category of the phenomenological method, it is very broad as it is a characteristic of consciousness, it means the aspect of being aware of something.

The term intropathy is a first incursion outside the ego, it means to introject a sense or feeling that the other might like, in this sense it breaks with the sense of the Cartesian transcendental ego, validating the experience of the other, as said by Husserl:

“Precisely for this reason it separates itself in the realm of the transcendental ego, that is, in its realm of consciousness, together with its specifically proved ego-being, my concrete peculiarity, as the one from which, from the motivations of my ego, I grasp my analogue in intropathy” (Husserl, 2013, p. 34).

Thus, it can be said that this term is still among the intersubjective experiences, that is, the appreciation of the subjective experiences and relationships of subjects in social or community life, but empathy is a step further, in this sense it is important to understand the phenomenological epoché, that puts our senses, our knowledge “in parentheses”:

“If I, the meditating self, see myself reduced by epoché to my absolute ego and to what is constituted there, then I have not become solus ipse, and this whole philosophy of self-reflection will not be like that a pure solipsism, albeit phenomenological -transcendental?” (Husserl, 2013, p. 34) so ​​it is not a Cartesian solipsism, but a reflection with intentionality.

How does this become clear, then, does it remain “unapprehensible that everything that is for me can only obtain meaning and proof in my intentional life?” (Husserl, 2013, p. 35) here the philosopher clarifies that a phenomenological understanding of empathy is necessary and a penetration into the experience of the Other, outside its egoic scope.

Thus, this overcoming of transcendental subjectivity extended in intersubjectivity is only “co-experienced in myself, therefore indicted, in a secondary sense, in the way of a peculiar perception of similarity, proving itself there in a consensual way” (Husserl, 2013, idem) and it is curious that there Husserl speaks of “mirroring the alter ego” (idem) long before the discovery of the mirror neuron (see previous post).

Stein’s connection with Husserl in the phenomenological tradition is enormous, having even been his assistant, when presenting her thesis with the theme: “The problem of Empathy” suggests that this was a gap in the phenomenological approach, wrote Stein:

“In his course on nature and spirit, Husserl had spoken that an external objective world could only be experienced intersubjectively, that is, by a plurality of knowing individuals, who are situated in a position of cognitive interchange. … this peculiar experience, Husserl, following the works of Theodor Lipps, called “empathy” (Einfühlung); however, I had not specified what it consisted of” (STEIN, 2017, p. 360, free translation).

Stein’s work is enormous and still very little known.

STEIN, E. (2017) Zum Problem der Einfühlung. Dissertation zur Erlanugng der Doktorowürde. Breslau: Bruchdruckercides Waisenhaauses.

HUSSERL, E. (2013) Meditações Cartesianas e Conferências de Paris. Ed. por Stephan Strasser, trans. Pedro M. S. Alve. Brazil, Rio de Janeiro: Forense.  



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