Far from Heart, Far from Eyes: Empathy, Personal Identity, and Moral Recognition
Keywords:indifference, moral damage, empathy, emotional education, narcissism
Do we empathize with the others because first we have recognized them as somehow equals, or do we recognize them as equals because first we have empathized with them? This article explores the relation between affective empathy, the moral recognition of the others, and personal identity. I defend that, to recognize others as valuable and act in line with this, one must be able to feel affective empathy for their situation, and, to do so, one has to 1) be curious about them to surpass indifference, and 2) feel that your identity is not threatened by recognizing the others. Otherwise, rationalizations and justifications of antisocial behaviors would arise. Thus, I focus on how the construction of the self plays a key role in prosocial behaviors and the activation of affective empathy, which has been overlooked by moral philosophy in the debate on empathy. In order to do so, firstly, I explore cases where moral recognition is broken, secondly, I explore the dichotomic debate on the role of empathy for moral recognition and moral agency, and, thirdly, I try to enrich the debate by shifting the focus to the prerequisites to feel empathy, such as curiosity, a well-integrated self and healthy narcissism, addressing so how the construction of the self plays a key role in the possibility of empathizing with others and, therefore, in epistemic virtues and moral agency. As a result, I advocate the importance of psychological education for moral agency.
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