Visualizing Empathy – Part 2

empathy-3

Empathy 3

As we’ve learned throughout this class, and as the image above demonstrates, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

 

 

empathy-3

Empathy 3

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

 

 

 

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept, as is illustrated by the image below.

empathy-3

Empathy 3

 

Works Cited
Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. by Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30.


Image references
Empathy 1
http://personalitygrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Empathy.jpg?2aa4f6

Empathy 2
http://www.relatably.com/m/img/empathetic-memes/d8965e281b3d08be099b706edadd15d0565d561ae35e9d07bb8fa0d637c8a678

Empathy 3
Borrowed from the blog post of Shalini Shah
Link TBD

Visualizing Empathy – Part 1

Empathy 1

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

 

Empathy 2

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

 

empathy-3

Empathy 3

As we’ve learned throughout this class, empathy is a slippery concept. It seems that we have seen as many definitions of the term as we have authors who have addressed themselves to explaining it (or some part of it). And of course there’s always the confusion of when empathy is “legitimate,” versus when we might be experiencing what Adam Morton calls “pseudo-empathy” (327). How well do we need to understand the particulars of a person’s situation to empathize with that person? How much of that person’s experience do we need to have shared in order to empathize? If we have shared some part of it, does that count? What are the “important” parts? Perhaps a thorny, related question is, can it be insulting to a person for us to assume we can empathize with her if we base that assumption on an exaggerated idea of our familiarity with her suffering? We’ve likely all been in the position of having someone tell us that they “know how we feel,” when we are quite certain that they have no idea. Which, come to think of it, is another way of saying that we can all empathize with that feeling. So is that empathy enough? Yes, empathy is definitely a slippery concept.

 

Works Cited
Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. by Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30.


Image references
Empathy 1
https://personalitygrowth.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Empathy.jpg?2aa4f6

Empathy 2
http://www.relatably.com/m/img/empathetic-memes/d8965e281b3d08be099b706edadd15d0565d561ae35e9d07bb8fa0d637c8a678

Empathy 3
Borrowed from the blog post of Shalini Shah
Link TBD

Blog Assignment 6 – Go Set a Watchman

Now that you’ve read Go Set a Watchman and learned about its publication history and controversial reception, you will respond to the novel in your own way. You can choose any aspect of the novel to respond to, but here are a couple of questions you may want to consider:

  • Much has been made about the changes to Atticus Finch’s character. But some writers see continuity (and others have suggested that we had Atticus wrong to begin with). What about you? Where do you see substantive change in Atticus’ character? Where do you see continuity?
  • Jean Louise reacts initially with disgust when she discovers the “truth” about her father and Hank. Many readers have had similar reactions. But by end of the novel her position has softened considerably. What about your own? How do you respond to this novel’s version of Atticus and the town of Maycomb? How do you respond to Jean Louise’s own response to that?

However you choose to respond, you should cite specific passages from the text, and provide analysis of those passages to support your response. Make sure your post is cited according to the guidelines I’ve provided. Your post should be 500-750 words in length, and is due by the beginning of class on Tuesday, October 25.

Blog Assignment 5 – Empathy in the Digital Age

Social media is a two-edged sword. In “God That Was Awesome,” Jon Ronson details the experience of Twitter user Justine Sacco, whose tweet about the (im)possibility of her, a white woman, contracting HIV while in Africa got her publicly shamed and fired. Sacco’s experience, while extreme, is not particularly unusual. Almost all of us can relate to having a social media experience go horribly wrong, and we have likely all heard of such experiences becoming short-lived and embarrassing public spectacles for both celebrities and “ordinary” people. At the same time, we’ve also seen social media create huge outpourings of public support and sympathy or empathy among users.

For this blog post, you will find an example of either phenomenon. This should be an example that has generated some form of media attention. You will briefly relate that example, and link to a story on it. Then you will do some research on empathy in the digital age. Unlike your first assignment, this research does not have to be scholarly. But it should in some way address the question of the effects the internet and social media have on empathy and community. Then you will integrate this source into your post by summarizing the author’s position, and explaining whether you think this position helps shed light on the example you’ve chosen. In other words, you may agree or disagree with the author, or you may decide that this example complicates the author’s position without necessarily invalidating it–it’s up to you.

Your blog post should be 500-750 words, and is due by the beginning of class on Thursday (10/20). Remember to cite your sources according to the guidelines outlined on the “Class Blogs” handout.

Blog Assignment 4 – Disagreement

Adam Morton’s essay “Empathy for the Devil” makes an argument about the “barriers” to empathizing with those who commit atrocious or evil acts. Now that you have summarized the article along with a partner, I want you to practice turning a summary toward your purposes and beginning to implement counterargument in your treatment of a scholarly source.

Find some aspect of Morton’s argument with which you disagree. This does not need to be Morton’s entire argument, but it should not be such a trivial point that disagreement on it makes no significant difference in understanding the question at issue in Morton’s argument. Once you have identified the point on which you want to disagree, revisit your summary and make sure that this aspect of Morton’s argument is featured as part of the “how/why” portion of your summary (if it’s not, revise your summary to make its importance clear).

After you’ve incorporated your summary, explain why you disagree with Morton on this point. To do so, you will use your own reasoning, but you will also incorporate a scholarly source of your own choosing to assist you in making your point. This means that you will have to do some independent research using the methods our class librarians went over in class on Tuesday.

Finally, conclude your essay by explaining why a different perspective on this aspect of Morton’s argument might lead someone to rethink his overall position. If this is an important aspect of Morton’s argument, would a person need to reject his position outright if they agree with your perspective on it?

So, in summary, your assignment with this blog post is to:

  1. Incorporate the summary of Morton you completed with a partner in class, revising that summary if necessary to make it clear how the aspect of Morton’s argument with which you disagree fits into his larger argument.
  2. Explain why you disagree with this aspect of Morton’s argument, using a scholarly source of your own choosing to support your own position on this.
  3. Conclude by suggesting how this disagreement might cause someone to rethink Morton’s overall position in light of your counterargument.

Your post should be about 500-750 words, and is due by classtime on Thursday (10/13).

Blog Assignment 3 – Empathy, Real or Apparent

For this assignment (which should help you prepare for your first formal assignment), you will find a specific instance from A Time to Kill where empathy–either real or apparent–is invoked. This can be one of three types of invocation of empathy:

  1. one character attempting to invoke empathy in another character;
  2. the film invoking empathy in the viewer; or
  3. some combination of the two.

For your post, you will need to explain how/why the invocation of empathy occurs. You will also need explain whether this is a real, or only apparent invocation of empathy. If it’s only apparently an invocation of empathy, what other emotion or perspective is it invoking?

Your post should be 500-700words, and is due in class on Thursday, September 22.

Formal Assignment 1 – Empathy and Justice in “A Time to Kill”

“Now imagine she’s white” (TK).

With these words, Jake Brigance abruptly concludes his closing arguments in defense of Carl Lee Hailey. The jurors who have been imagining the harrowing circumstances of Tonya Hailey’s abduction and rape open their eyes in apparent shock. Shortly thereafter we learn from a young African-American boy exiting the courthouse that Carl Lee has been found “innocent” (TK). This is one of many instances in the film in which empathy appears to play a vital role in the pursuit of justice. But in this film, empathy and justice are slippery and problematic. Who deserves our empathy, and why? Who deserves justice, and why? These are all questions raised by the film, and important to our conversations about empathy and ethics. For this assignment, however, you will answer the following question:

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill?

The question is worded simply enough, but is deceptively complex. In order to answer it, you will need to rely on specific evidence from the film, and careful analysis of that evidence. Remember that, because you will be completing this assignment in the blog, you can use images and video to help support your analysis.

You will also need to define your terms for the purposes of your argument. To do so you should make use of at least one of our longer readings from class. We have discussed the importance and difficulty of defining empathy, and have read Martin Hoffman’s definition of the term and account of its development, along with its place and limitations in the legal system. We have also read Martha Nussbaum’s account of Adam Smith’s “judicious spectator,” a role she believes makes for an ideal juror–and one that is cultivated through literary reading (72). How can one of these authors help you understand empathy and justice for the purposes of understanding this film?

In addition to this question you may want to consider some of the following questions:

  • Does Jake’s closing argument encourage empathy, or does it rely on the limitations of the white jurors’ empathy? Can it do both? If it only does the latter, is that okay as long as it gets them to acquit Carl Lee?
  • Does the film encourage us as viewers to be “judicious spectators”? Why or why not?
  • Is justice in this film coextensive with the law? Why or why not?

What a successful assignment will incorporate:

  • An argumentative thesis answering the question at issue for the assignment, and an essay that develops that thesis statement.
  • Clear definition of key terms
  • Use of specific evidence from the film, and analysis of that evidence.
  • Use of either Hoffman or Nussbaum’s essay to help you make your argument.
  • Appropriate use of sources, and citation of those sources, along with a Works Cited section with entries for all of your sources.

Your essay should be approximately 1000-1200 words in length. Your initial draft of the essay will be due in class on Tuesday, September 27. We will do peer review in class on that day, and then you will meet with me individually later that week to discuss my feedback and your plans for revision. Your final draft of the blog post will be due by classtime on Tuesday, October 4.

Works Cited

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Brothers, 1996.

Nussbaum, Martha. “Rational Emotions.” Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. Boston: Beacon, 1995. 53-78.

Blog Assignment 2 – Defending Tom Robinson

Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson in court

Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson in court

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch tries, and ultimately fails, to clear Tom Robinson of rape charges. Integral to his attempted appeal to the jurors–and to the film’s appeal to its viewers–is his closing argument. This represents his final opportunity, in the words of Clarence Darrow, to “make [the] jury like his client, or at least feel sympathy for him” (qtd. in Hoffman 251).

We’ve discussed Atticus’ closing argument and its ultimate failure to convince the jurors. Now it’s your turn. Pretend that you are Atticus Finch, and create an argument that represents your best attempt to convince the jury to acquit Tom Robinson. Consider your audience. Who are they? What are their feelings and biases? How will you take these feelings and biases into consideration? What sorts of appeals are likely to reach them–and what sorts will alienate them? What sorts of evidence should you remind them of? How will you make them “like [Tom], or at least feel sympathy for him”?

Your closing arguments should be about 500-700 words in length, and are due in class on Thursday (9/15).

 

Works Cited

Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological PerspectivesEd. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-244.

Image Reference

Atticus Finch and Tom Robinson in court.
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/02/2a/0e/022a0e3bbe0571f1731766c0e99ad4e6.jpg

Blog Assignment 1: Summarizing and Defining Key Words

This blog post will consist of two parts, but you should integrate both parts into a unified piece of writing (ie, composing each part in paragraphs, using transitions between the paragraphs to explain how they relate to one another).

Part 1 – Summary

First, write a summary of Hoffman’s essay “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” As you will see, this essay is longer than either Bloom’s “The Baby in the Well” or Cummins’ “Why Paul Bloom is Wrong about Empathy,” and will prove more challenging to succinctly summarize. But summary is a vital skill in scholarly writing, so it’s important to practice it now.

Part 2 – Key Term

Another thing you will notice about Hoffman’s essay—and much scholarly writing—is the use of language that is specific to the discipline in which Hoffman is writing (in Hoffman’s case, psychology). This may mean one of two things: either that the writer is using terms that are familiar to scholars in the discipline but unfamiliar to those outside of it; or that the writer is using familiar terms but is careful to use them in precise ways specific to his/her discipline.

For the second part of your blog post, I want you to identify a single key term used in one of these two way in Hoffman’s essay (you might choose Hoffman’s use of the term empathy, but you could choose any number of other terms from the essay, as well). In identifying this key term, you will do three things:

  1. Quote one instance in which Hoffman uses the term.
  2. Define the term in the way Hoffman uses it, using your own words.
  3. Explain why it is important for Hoffman’s essay that he use the term in the specific way that he uses it. This might be because it is a key concept, to ensure that the term’s meaning is not confused with a similar term, or some other reason. It’s up to you to read the essay and determine why this use of the term is important for Hoffman’s essay.