Guest lecture by Nivedita Gangopadhyay

Nivedita Gangopadhyay (Center for Mind, Brain and Cognitive Evolution, Institut für Philosophie II, Ruhr-Universität Bochum) visits the Wittgenstein Archives in the period 2.12.2013-31.1.2014. In this context, a guest lecture is organized:

  • Thursday, 23 January, 14.00-16.00, Sydnesplassen 12-13, rom 210: "Empathy, other-directed emotion, and mindreading"

  • The interdisciplinary field of social cognition is witnessing the emergence of a number of theories that investigate an immediate form of understanding another’s mental state under the notion of ‘empathy’. These theories, however, disagree extensively about how to characterise the psychological, cognitive, and neural processes enabling a form of ‘immediate’ understanding of another’s mental states, where ‘immediate’ is broadly characterised as not relying on theorising and inferential processes. The two main approaches to empathy are the simulationist-projectionist account (ST) (e.g. Gallese 2001, 2003, 2005, Goldman 2006, Iacoboni 2009) and the phenomenological philosophy inspired accounts (PP) (e.g. Gallagher 2005, 2008, 2012, Zahavi 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012). Although the two approaches disagree on several issues, there is one point of apparent agreement among them in using the term “empathy”. ST and PP agree that empathetic recognition of emotions is not to be confused with the closely related phenomenon of emotional contagion. While emotion recognition is an ‘other-directed’ epistemic state, emotional contagion is a ‘self-directed’ epistemic state. However, the recognition of an emotion in the other is non-trivially related to one’s own experience of the emotion; the former requires some anchoring in the latter. Thus emotion recognition is not entirely insulated from an affective state. But in what sense is the recognition of another’s emotion itself an affective state such that it is not a state of emotional contagion? It is unclear how PP proposes to deal with the question but ST attempts to offer some replies. Thus, for instance, Gallese (2003, 2005) claims that emotion recognition involves resonance mechanisms that also participate in enabling one’s own emotion. Goldman (2006) contends that emotion recognition by empathy is an affective state because of affective sharing. De Vignemont and Jacob (2012) propose that empathy is an affective state as it involves running ‘offline’ one’s own affective system. In this talk I critically assess the proposals by considering the intentionality and phenomenology of emotion recognition. In answering the question ‘Is empathy an affective state?’ I shall also draw out the implications of the answer for an account of empathy as well as for an account of emotion recognition.