Group-Directed Empathy: A Phenomenological Account

in Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
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This paper is an attempt to build a bridge between the fields of social cognition and social ontology. Drawing on both classical and more recent phenomenological studies, the article develops an account of group-directed empathy. The first part of the article spells out the phenomenological notion of empathy and suggests certain conceptual distinctions vis-à-vis two different kinds of group. The second part of the paper applies these conceptual considerations to cases in which empathy is directed at groups and elucidates the sense in which individuals can empathically target not only other individual’s emotions, but also shared emotions as such. Clarifying the structure of group-directed empathy, it will also be argued that the latter is, by default, more informative than individual-directed empathy. The third and last section of the paper is devoted to one central consequence of the proposed account: if it is possible to empathize with groups as such, and if empathy necessary builds on body-perception, then both ideas seem to be conducive to the claim that groups as such have a body.

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Cf. Husserl, 1954, p. 306: “The human spirit, after all, is grounded on the human physis; each individual human psychic life is founded upon corporeity, and thus each community upon the bodies of the individual human beings who are members of it”; see also Husserl, 2008, p. 299.

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