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Empathy or Empathies? Uncertainties in the Interdisciplinary Discussion

Summary

The term empathy has become a linguistic commonplace in everyday communication as well as in interdisciplinary research. The results of the research questions, raised in the last hundred (and more) years, coming from different areas, such as aesthetics, psychology, neurosciences and literary theory, lack in fact a clear concept of empathy. Not surprisingly, a recent paper has identified up to 43 distinct definitions of empathy in academic publications. By reconstructing the main research lines on empathy, our paper highlights the reasons for this conceptual inadequacy and the deficiencies in the theorization of empathy that create misleading interpretations thereof. Along the line connecting Plato’s insights on empathic experiences to the present neuroscientific experiments, a broad spectrum of issues is deployed for which “empathy” functions as an umbrella term covering a net of categorical relationships – projection, transfer, association, expression, animation, anthropomorphization, vivification, fusion, and sympathy – that only partially overlap. Our paper therefore recommends that “empathy” should not be assumed as a self-evident notion but instead preliminarily clarified in its definition every time we decide to have recourse to it.

Open access
Geschichte zwischen Erinnerung und Phantasie / History between Memory and Fantasy

Summary

This article refers on a recent discussion with the question of the relationship between individual memory and collective history. It is claimed a constitutive role of memory in history. This thesis is examined on the basis of the question according to the value of the autobiography as a historical source. It is shown here that a reference to the collective history is already guaranteed in the relationship between memory and narrative. Four observations shall justify the arguments, they concern (i) the role of intuition in historical narrative, (ii) the relationship between historical actor and his deeds, (iii) the transcendence of memory, and (iv) the role of fiction in the historical narrative. The last observation leads at the end on the role of fantasy in the historical memory.

Open access