Using Valerie Tiberius’ Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge 2014) as a starting point to orientate ourselves in the expanding research domain of moral psychology, we will concentrate on one particularly popular and interesting research topic that connects various questions on the motivation and responsibility of moral agents: empathy. Empathy seems central to folk morality, yet philosophers and psychologists alike are not sure what role it plays exactly and what mechanisms underlie it. Both conceptual and normative questions have given rise to a vast body of literature on empathy over the last decade (although of course philosophers have been interested in the capacity at least since David Hume). The philosopher Jesse Prinz and the psychologist Paul Bloom have given voice to a provocative but intriguing case against empathy. To assess their claims, we will invoke insights from social and developmental psychology (Batson, Hoffman, Moll), and read philosophical defenses of empathy (Stueber, Maibom, Slote). We will also connect the debate about empathy to broader questions about the role of imagination in moral life, and the capacities that are constitutive of moral agency.
During meetings we will discuss the assigned articles, or have live discussions with invited guestspeakers.