chapter  9
18 Pages

Empathy, Interdependency, and Morality

Building From Hume’s Account
WithLorraine L. Besser

Prominent moral psychologists have challenged the appropriateness of emphasizing empathy’s role within morality. Jesse Prinz, for example, argues that empathy is not necessary for morality, and that empathy can even be counterproductive to the aims of morality. This view stands in stark contrast to Hume’s views about the relationship between empathy (what Hume calls “sympathy”) and morality. Hume highlights sympathy as being the fundamental glue of morality, and Prinz’s own attack on empathy specifically calls out Hume’s reliance on sympathy. In this chapter, I’ll present an alternative interpretation of Hume’s conception of sympathy and morality that both challenges Prinz’s argument and reveals an important role for empathy within moral theory.