Adam Morton argues people encounters a barrier that restricts them from committing atrocious acts in his article Empathy for the Devil. As moralistic people constantly regulate their own decency, they comprehend the “right” and the “moral”. Their definition of this “right” thing is distinct from what others believe and do. However, humans are limited to internal visualizations and cannot always perfectly correlate with others’ feelings and actions. He argues a person may understand someone’s motivation for an action(why), but that doesn’t suggest the person can also tell “how” did the observed individual decided to perform that specific action over all others. One example is the battered wife who pulls the trigger and kills her husband. It is understandable why a wife would want to escape her abusive relationship, but it is also questionable how she did she overcome her moral to pull her trigger; while she had other options, such as calling the police or move out of the house. The barrier in this example is committing an act of violence, which any non-violent and moral person would question.
Morton also distinguishes the three key conditions required for one to accurately empathize: discover what the barrier was, the person’s attitude towards overcoming the barrier, and “the nature of the emotion or motivation that facilitates the process” (Morton). There are instances when one may have attempted to interpret how another feels, but misidentifies. Morton calls this Pseudo empathy. For example, X, who endeavors to understand the motive behind A’s violent crime, inserted his own experience and emotional responses to resemble A’s cause. Did X closely simulate A’s emotions? Morton didn’t clearly state. However, Morton did suggest one who encompasses Pseudo empathy are tending to believe that they are accurately empathizing. Thus “The result is that we do not think of ourselves as capable of empathy with the performers of atrocious acts, and we do think of ourselves as understanding acts where all we have is a warm empathetic feeling.” (Morton)
In my opinion, Morton’s definition for Pseudo empathy and accurate non-Pseudo empathy conflicts with reality. A 100% accurate empathy is nearly impossible to reach. In the article Empathy, Emotion, Regulation, and Moral, it is explained how the closest people can get to full empathy is when people detach themselves from their natural perspective and look from the eyes of an imaginary impartial spectator (Kauppinen).
Not only that people are costumed to instinctively refer back to their own “habit and experience they do “so easily and readily, that we scarce sensible that we do it.”(Kauppinen), there are also no two people who share exactly the same passion and experienced. Misinterpretation is natural. Likewise, one can blame another before one identifies the fault due to social conditioning (Kauppinen). Excluding improper empathetic responses resulted from misunderstood, hidden, or modified information, truth-adjusted empathy (simulating being in one’s situation with correct and proper information) may also result in emotions that are not compatible with the original. Yet that does not make it any other objects like sympathy since it “involves no concern for you, or desire to make you feel better” (Kauppinen).
Ideally, empathy would be a complete simulation of another’s emotional responses to a situation. But this possibility is hindered by limitations on human ability to share backgrounds, beliefs, desire, values, and emotions cognitively. Our own passion and experiences automatically modify all our empathetic responses, leading to an off colored image comparing to the original, more or less. The uncontrollable lack of accuracy in our empathy would make almost all empathetic responses to fall into the category of what Morton defined to be “Pseudo empathy”. People can maximize their imaginative power, and they won’t be able to accomplish the task to make others’ feelings their own. Thus, there is no such object as “accurate empathy”, but only “more” accurate empathy.
Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print
Kauppinen, Antti. “Empathy, Emotion Regulation, and Moral Judgment.” For Heidi Maibom(ed.) Empathy and Morality, Oxford University Press. May 13, 2013: Web
People See Things Differently. Digital image. Artefacts.com. N.p., n.d. Web. https://lizzyvanwyk.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/what-is-empathy/
Judd, Phil. Swapping Glasses. Digital image. Cartoonstock.com. N.p., n.d. Web.http://www.costaricaspanish.net/page/24/