chapter  1
15 Pages

Empathy and the moral self

WithJesse Prinz

Is empathy a reliable guide to moral judgments? Some recent critics say no. Empathy leads to favouritism, in-group bias and insensitivity to cases of injustice and situations of large-scale loss. Does it follow that empathy has no important role in morality? This sceptical conclusion follows if we think of morality as a set of universal principles for deciding the best course of action. In the real world, however, moral values differ from group to group, and these moral groups are a foundation for social identity. If morality is part of social identity, then empathy may play an important role. It is a tool for recognizing one’s moral group and bringing group members into moral alignment. From this perspective, the fact that empathy leads to in-group biases is part of empathy’s function, rather than a design flaw.