chapter  6
10 Pages

The evolution of empathy

WithArmin W. Schulz

This chapter outlines some of the major factors that are likely to have influenced the evolution of empathy. It shows why knowing something about the reasons for which the ability to empathize has evolved is useful for answering various further questions concerning this ability. The chapter considers some methodological issues surrounding the evolutionary biological investigation of this trait. It presents the major driving forces that are commonly thought to underlie the evolution of empathy: the facilitation of cooperation and the facilitation of the generation of non-cooperatively adaptive behavioral responses to the environment. The chapter explains some implications of these evolutionary biological points for the discussion surrounding the nature and moral importance of empathy. The non-cooperative perspective on the evolution of empathy focuses on the fact that emotional mirroring can be beneficial even in non-cooperative settings, provided that there is a correlation between the biological advantageousness of one organism feeling a particular emotion and another organism doing so.