We are excited to announce the third mini-workshop in its series of three, each taking place over spring/summer 2021.
The workshop is on ‘Empathy, Grief, and Interpersonal Understanding’ and it will take place online on June 16th, 9:30am BST.
The schedule will be as follows:
9:30am – 11:00am
Grief, Empathy, and Psychopathy Michael Cholbi (30-45 minute talk, then Q&A)
11:00am – 11:30am
11:30am – 1:00pm
“You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone!” On grief, empathy, and self-knowledge Lizzy Ventham (30-45 minute talk, then Q&A)
Topic: There’s not only something valuable in being able to understand others, but we also find something valuable in being understood. We cherish many personal relationships where we know and understand the people in question for who they are, and we find can often comfort in being known by others. This workshop aims to explore the relationship between this kind of interpersonal understanding – this empathy – with grief. When we experience grief, do we become alienated from others, and struggle to empathise with others? Do those who struggle with empathy also struggle with grief? Do we sometimes grieve in part because we lose someone with whom we shared a certain kind of understanding, and what does that mean for our identity? What is the relationship between grief and the way we understand ourselves as relational to others? The workshop hopes to explore some of these questions, and more.
Empathy is an important means to interpersonal understanding. But for empathy to contribute to a genuine understanding of others, it has to succeed. However, empathizing with others successfully can be very difficult and there are many ways in which our attempts to take up others’ perspectives can fail. This workshop explores these “limits of empathy” and their consequences for interpersonal understanding. We will address the following questions: Are there any principled reasons why full empathy with another person is impossible? Is it possible to empathize with others whose sensibilities differ significantly from our own? Under which circumstances is empathy especially likely to fail? What are the specific harms associated with failing or distorting attempts to empathize? Can some of these limits of empathy be overcome and if so how?
There is a consensus in philosophy of mind that phenomenal knowledge, i.e. knowledge of what it is like to be in a specific state, can at least in practise only be gained by means of experiencing this state. Nevertheless, many pieces of literature and lyrics of countless songs are about what it is like to be in a specific situation. If the consensus view is right, we cannot learn from literature what it is like to go through experiences. This seems puzzling, because reading literature would turn out to be pointless in this respect.
We will discuss whether a clarified notion of phenomenal knowledge can solve this puzzle. We will also discuss questions like: is there a way to gain phenomenal knowledge via literature, art or our everyday testimony? Can we imagine what it is like to be in a specific situation? If we cannot know what it is like to be in a situation we have not been in before, how can we make decisions about things that have a big impact on ourselves like starting a family or moving to another country? Do we really have no knowledge what it is like to be in new situations at all?
9.00am – 10.30am
Transformative Experiences and the Equivocation Objection Yuri Cath (La Trobe University, Melbourne) 30-45 min talk, then Q&A
10.30am – 10.45am
10.45am – 12.15pm
Phenomenal Knowledge without Experiences? Christiana Werner (University of Duisburg-Essen) 30-45 min talk, then Q&A