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The varieties of ethical experience

A phenomenology of empathy, sympathy, and compassion

Zurück zum Heft: Phänomenologische Forschungen 2014
DOI: https://doi.org/10.28937/1000107781
EUR 14,90

This article offers original phenomenological descriptions of empathy, sympathy, and compassion. These descriptions are based on empirical research, and they sample the variety of ways the subject may respond to the suffering of another person. The structure of these different, but similar ways of being are then taken up as clues hinting at a sensibility bearing on the formation of an ethical life. This sensibility is essentially twofold in character. On the one hand, a pairing of the perceived similarities between subject and other opens the subject to a resonance with the humanity of the other. On the other hand, the other’s expressive life awakens the subject’s interest in wanting to know the meaning of these expressions for the other or calls forth a caring regard for the well-being of the other. The ways of being represented by empathy, sympathy, and compassion may be viewed as different ways of organizing or rendering a precise form to the constitutive strands of the aforementioned sensibility. The relevant literature in phenomenology and ethics is commented on as it informs the discussion, but is kept to a minimum.