Online-Workshop “Empathy, Grief, and Interpersonal Understanding

16 June 2021, 9:30am (BST)
(please note the different timezone to the other workshops – this one is being hosted by The University of Liverpool branch of the project)

Workshop Schedule:

9:30 – 11:00 Michael Cholbi (30-45 minute talk followed by Q&A)

11:00 – 11:30 Break

11:30 – 13:00 Lizzy Ventham (30-45 minute talk followed by Q&A)

Online-Workshop “Interpersonal Understanding and the Limits of Empathy

27 April 2021, 5.00 p.m. (CET)

Workshop Schedule:

Olivia Bailey (UC Berkeley) (3045 min talk, then Q&A)


Katharina Anna Sodoma (University of Duisburg-Essen) (30-45 min talk, then Q&A)



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?

Online-Workshop “Phenomenal Knowledge and Testimony

25 February 2021, 9.00 a.m. (CET)

Workshop Schedule:

“Transformative Experiences and the Equivocation Objection”
Yuri Cath (La Trobe University, Melbourne) (30-45 min talk, then Q&A)


“Phenomenal Knowledge without Experiences?”
Christiana Werner (University of Duisburg-Essen) (30-45 min talk, then Q&A)


An introduction

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?