Against a Broad Definition of "Empathy"

Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia. 2015;6(1):56-69 DOI 10.4453/rifp.2015.0005


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia

ISSN: 2039-4667 (Print); 2239-2629 (Online)

Publisher: Mimesis Edizioni, Milano

LCC Subject Category: Philosophy. Psychology. Religion

Country of publisher: Italy

Language of fulltext: English, Italian, German

Full-text formats available: PDF



Sarah Songhorian


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 20 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

In this paper I will try to provide some arguments against a broad definition of “empathy”. Firstly, I will deal with attempts to define empathy as an umbrella concept. Then, I will try to point out the four main elements which contribute to the confusion that researchers in both the social and political as well as the scientific and philosophical domains face when dealing with empathy. In order to resolve this confusion, I suggest applying David Marr’s distinction to the field of empathy. Instead of providing an umbrella definition for empathy, which tries to account for all the data coming from different disciplines, I believe understanding that there are different levels of explanations and that different disciplines can contribute to each of them will provide a more detailed and less confused definition of empathy.