Discussing Empathy: What, precisely, is it?

Sponsored by Taylor & Francis

Recorded on 02/04/2019
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 72

With this episode, Choice is pleased to debut a semi-regular series of special interviews with OAT-winning authors. The Outstanding Academic Titles (OATs for short) are an annual list of the best academic titles reviewed by Choice. The 2018 list is just out and available in our January 2019 issue and online at ChoiceReviews.org.

In this series, Dr. Randolph Cornelius, professor of psychological science at Vassar College and longtime Choice reviewer, interviews Dr. Heidi Maibom, professor of philosophy at the University of Cincinnati, about empathy and her most recent edited work, The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy. Their discussion ranges widely over the volume’s chapters, and brings together Dr. Cornelius’ psychological work with Dr. Maibom’s philosophical insights. They begin their conversation with perhaps the most foundational question in the study of empathy: what, precisely, is it? And from that base, they build a nuanced and informative description of empathy that incorporates insights from science, philosophy, environmentalism, and spirituality.

Dr. Cornelius gets Dr. Maibom to explain some of the thinking behind the structure of The Handbook in this episode, and in neat philosophical style, Dr. Maibom parses Dr. Cornelius’ probing about why empathy is an interesting phenomenon for a philosopher to study into its personal and disciplinary parts. Along the way, they begin to uncover some ideas about what differentiates “emotional contagion” from “empathy proper.”

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About the guests:

Randolph Cornelius
Randolph (Randy) Cornelius received a BA from the University of Florida (1975) and MS (1979) and PhD (1981) degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In addition to the Department of Psychology, he teaches in the American Culture and Environmental Studies Programs.

His research interests revolve around the study of human emotions and emotional expression. For several years he has sought to understand the social functions of weeping and has been developing an evolutionary theory of weeping that focuses on tears as a type of communicative display. He also studies close relationships, conceptions of emotions in American popular culture, and the religious beliefs of scientists. He is the author of The Science of Emotion. Research and Tradition in the Psychology of Emotion (Prentice-Hall, 1996) and the co-editor, with Ad Vingerhoets, of Adult Crying: A Biopsychosocial Approach (Philadelphia: Taylor and Francis, 2001).

Heidi Maibom
Heidi L. Maibom is professor of philosophy at University of Cincinnati. She studied at University of Copenhagen, University of Bologna, and University College London, and has held fellowships at Cambridge and Princeton Universities. She works on folk psychology, empathy, responsibility, and psychopathy. Heidi is the editor and contributor to the book, Empathy and Morality. She wrote the first chapter titled, Introduction: Everything you ever wanted to know about empathy. Her most recent edited volume is The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy.

Listen to the rest of the series:

About the Music:
The intro and outro music in Authority File is “Grapes,” mixed by I dunno. The transition music is “Peace ( There’s A better Way ),” mixed by Loveshadow. The music is available on ccMixter, and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (cc-by 4.0).