How can we understand another person's feelings, thoughts, words or behaviour? Through empathy, it is hoped, we might use our imaginations to shift our perspective into another person's, thereby grasping their thoughts and emotions.
In this insightful new book, Derek Matravers negotiates the evolution of this fascinating concept. He explores the roots of the term in the work of David Hume and Adam Smith, its re-emergence in a new form in nineteenth-century German philosophy, and its resurgence as something different again in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy. In doing so, he explores the important role empathy, in all its forms, has played in the study of the mind, the emotions and aesthetics, and in ethics.
Empathy is an ideal introduction to one of the most absorbing contemporary philosophical debates.
"This is a terrific introduction to the concept of empathy. Matravers takes us on a first-rate tour of the concept, stopping along the way to trace its historical roots, and to examine the role of empathy in morality and aesthetics. I found myself effortlessly whisked along by Matravers' insightful distinctions and engaging examples. If you are new to the philosophy of empathy, this is the book to read. If you are already an expert, Matravers' clear-headed presentation of the theoretical alternatives will help you take the perspective of your competitors."
—Heather Battaly, California State University, Fullerton
"Matravers' book provides a very enjoyable, highly nuanced, and historically astute discussion of the concept of empathy and its alleged contribution to understanding other minds, to morality, and to our appreciation of works of art. It constitutes a first-rate introduction to a—philosophically rather confusing—topic."
—Karsten Stueber, author of Rediscovering Empathy