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Abstract

When we see a child crying, the urge to help him and to comfort him comes to us spontaneously. We understand what he is experiencing, and feel in us something of his sadness, his distress: this is what we call empathy. This sense of the other is the fruit of our evolutionary history and is hardwired in our biology. Empathy has interested a lot of thinkers and in particular the Scottish philosophers of the Age of the Enlightenment such as Adam Smith or Hume. More recently, the philosophers Robert Gordon (St Louis, Missouri) and Alvin Goldman (Tuscon, Arizona) proposed the theory of simulation according to which when we understand the other, we simulate the other’s point of view and we use this prospective to understand the other and predict his behavior. The French neuropscyhologist Jean Decety adopted this point of view. He specifies that the empathy is the capacity to mentally simulate the subjectivity of the other, to put ourselves in the shoes of another: it lies on biological systems.

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