Empathy in Policy

This course helped us establish the fact that ethics (or values) have some relation to empathy. I am interested in public policy, especially global health policy. This research project will look at how policy, ethics, and empathy all relate. In most cases, multi governmental organizations have to come up with policies that will largely benefit the majority of their targeted population, or the most vulnerable populations (those who are at a higher risk of whatever disease they are trying to combat). This is viewed as the “right” thing to do. However, policy is not that easy to formulate because of all the different people at stake. For instance, policy depends on the available resources which affect the “right” thing. Like we have seen in the course, context influences empathy as well as ethics. Another aspect to note in this is topic is the fact that it is easier to empathize with an individual than a large group. Like we spoke about in the course hearing that thousands of people are injured from an earthquake is less effective in invoking empathy than looking into one person’s story. So do policymakers have the capacity to empathize with these large populations they are trying to aid? Or are they just getting the job done? Would empathy actually make policies more effective, if we assume that there is little to not empathy in policy making?

The driving question for this research project is, How beneficial is empathy in public policy?

Most policy makers use the statement “economic policy is healthy policy”. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the numbers dictate health policy. In addition to this, policy makers are not directly affected by the policy, especially in the global health industry. The individuals who hold the power are the ones who have the money, much like history is written by the victors. What makes this topic important is the fact that more often than not policies are not effective. Take for instance the combat against HIV, policymakers still haven’t found an effect policy to fight HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa. I think this could be because of the lack of empathy on the part of the “super powers”. Without an understanding of the environment, there is no way one can impose effective strategies. My critical question invokes the type of thinking that could make a difference where it actually matters. Maybe we need to change our approach when making policy.

Potential Sources

Boisjoly Johanne, et al. “Empathy or Antipathy? : The Impact of Diversity”. The American Economic Review, vol. 96, no. 5, 2006., pp. 1890-1905doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.96.5.1890.

Bruns, F., & Frewer, A. (2011). Ethics consultation and empathy. HEC Forum,23(4), 247-255. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10730-011-9164-7

Natalia V. Czap et al. ‘Walk in my Shoes : Nudging for Empathy Conservation.’ Walk in My Shoes: Nudging for Empathy Conservation. N.p., Oct.-Nov 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Petrini, Carlo. “Ethics-Based Public Health Policy?” American Journal of Public Health. American Public Association, 2010. Web. 14 Nov. 2016

Stuckler, D., & McKee, M. (2008). Five metaphors about global-health policy. The Lancet, 372(9633), 95-7. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/199012988?accountid=13567

How much Empathy is enough Empathy?

I have learned that analyzing empathy is not an easy task. However, it is a discussion which is important because of the value of empathy as a human attribute. Empathy is valuable because it allows humans to interact successfully, it does this by helping us understand people’s emotions and consequently their actions. Throughout this blog sequence, I have discussed the limitations of empathy, the value in empathy and how empathy can exist in different contexts.

More importantly, this thread focused on the varying forms of empathy. Blog 4 looks at an argument which poses a limitation on the accuracy empathy. Blog 5 talks about virtual empathy and Blog 6 looks at self-serving empathy. This final blog is aimed at helping us recognize the point at which the understanding we have of people’s emotions is sufficient for it to result in accurate empathy. To do that we will first look at the respective forms of empathy in the blogs in this thread and then attempt to define accurate empathy.

So What is Empathy?

Empathy can loosely be defined as the ability to “imagine” and ultimately understand how someone else is feeling as well as share their feelings. This definition does not clearly state whether or not the feelings you feel (as an empathizer) are exactly the same as the individual you are empathizing with or if your understanding of their situation just results in an arbitrary emotional response. In addition to this, the definition brings out one of the limitations of empathy. Which is, our ability to understand someone’s emotions relies on our ability to imagine their emotions and their perspective.

Change your perspective

To empathize we must change your perspective


Different forms of empathy in the blog sequence

Blog post 4 set the foundation for this sequence of blog posts. The Blinkering Effect vs Moral Deliberation considers a limitation of empathy towards people who commit atrocious acts. In Morton’s article, Empathy for the Devil, he speaks about how most people are “reluctant” to overcome the barriers to empathize with people who commit atrocious acts (322). In this article, I look at the possibility that this limitation could be viewed as a tool that fosters accurate empathy. With this reluctance, we are able to engage in “Moral deliberation” which results in an adequate amount of understanding making a conducive environment for accurate empathy.

Blog post 5 speaks on empathy in social media which is commonly referred to as “virtual” empathy. Is Social Media really destroying our Capacity for Empathy? expands on the effect of social media and analyses if this effect creates or destroys our capacity for empathy. Posing the question, is virtual empathy accurate empathy? In discovering the differences between real and virtual empathy we considered the extent we understand people’s emotions via social media. This helped us consider whether or not virtual empathy is accurate or not.

Blog 6, Is Jean’s empathy self-serving?, speaks about the kind of empathy most people experience, empathy that is self-serving. This blog looks at the empathic emotions Jean expresses towards the black minority community in Go Set a Watchman. After analysing specific interactions between characters in the novel, we consider the possibility that Jean’s empathy is only a result of her personal anger. The question of whether or not self-serving empathy is accurate empathy is something I struggled with a lot. Take for instance the motive behind voluntary work. On one hand, you are helping the community. However, you could be motivated by the personal satisfaction that comes with helping others. I could argue that doing charity work makes one feel better for being privileged. This idea of self-serving “good acts” is expressed in the 6th blog post. After discovering the possibility that Jean’s empathy is self-serving, we are left to wonder whether or not her empathy is based on an adequate understanding of the challenges faced by the black community so that it can be deemed accurate empathy.

It is safe to assume that the most desirable form of empathy is accurate or legitimate empathy, and I hope to explore whether or not virtual and self-serving empathy falls under accurate empathy.  To find out whether or not these different types of empathy are mutually exclusive to accurate empathy we need to clearly define accurate empathy.

Accurate empathy

Upon research, I discovered that the definition of empathy and more especially accurate empathy heavily depends on the context in which empathy is required. Some situations better foster empathy than others. Take for instance an experience most people can relate to, a crying baby on a plane. Normally people have the ability to relate to and empathize with a child outside of a plane. However, more often than not people get annoyed by a screaming child on a plane, that does not mean you are unable to empathize with children in distress but this particular context resulted in a different emotional response. In Duncan’s article, Perceived Empathy, Accurate Empathy and Relationship Satisfaction, he speaks of the relationship between perceived and accurate empathy in heterosexual relationships. To study this relationship, he conducts an empirical investigation. Duncan argues that “higher accurate empathy will occur when people assume that the other person is more like them and when both people have more similar views” (329). Relating back to the scenario in the plane, parents tend to empathize with the parent of the child over empathizing with the child because of their shared experience, parenting.

Duncan’s definition of accurate empathy is also applicable in our above-cited blogs. In The Blinkering Effect Vs Moral Deliberation, we realize that “morally sensitive people” choose not to acknowledge the similarities they have with perpetrators and it is for this reason that the Blinkering Effect of Decency or Moral Deliberation inhibits accurate empathy. In the blog post on virtual empathy, we understand that without this belief of similarity we cannot express or experience accurate empathy (on social media), according to Duncan. And finally, in the blog about Jean’s self-serving empathy we recognize that her empathy is self-serving because of a lack of understanding of the group she is empathizing with. Though she wants to believe that she is similar to the black community her privileges blind her from fully experiencing empathy. She does not fully understand struggles faced by the community, however, she believes that she does. So according to Duncan’s standards, Jean does experience accurate empathy because his definition depends on the empathizer’s perception of their own understanding and their perception of the similarities they share with the group they are empathizing with.

In Kraus’s article, Social class, Contextualism and Empathic accuracy, claims your economic status influences your capacity for accurate empathy.  Kraus states that “Empathic accuracy reflects the ability to judge the emotions of other individuals” (1717). So we can see that the accuracy of empathy is based on your ability to understand the next individual. This is where our driving question comes up again, at what point is one’s understanding sufficient for it to become accurate empathy. This blog will continue to explore this question.

Work Cited

Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print

Cramer, D., and S. Jowett. “Perceived Empathy, Accurate Empathy and Relationship Satisfaction in Heterosexual Couples.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 27.3(2010): 327-49. Web. 29 Oct. 2016.

Kraus, M. W., S. Cote, and D. Keltner. “Social Class, Contextualism, and Empathic Accuracy.” Psychological Science 21.11 (2010): 1716-723. Web. 30 Oct. 2016

Image references

“Change your perspective”



Is Jean’s empathy self serving?

This is the question I was burdened with after reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Go Set a Watchman was initially written before, yet published after the Pulitzer Prize-Winning To Kill a Mockingbird. It is for this reason that many people viewed it as the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus is portrayed as a man of integrity, as a white man living in the South, he does the noble thing of defending a black man. In contrast, in Go Set Watchman Atticus is portrayed as a racist accomplished man . A man who believes that the black community is still in their “childhood” (Lee, 246). It is these views Atticus holds that invoke a variety of emotions in his daughter, Jean Louise Finch. Many readers can relate to Jean’s frustration because to them the only Atticus they know is the noble Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird, which seems to be the same Atticus Jean remembers from her childhood. In Go Set a Watchman Harper Lee allows the reader to experience the racist culture in Maycomb with Jean. Initially upon reading Go Set a Watchman I strongly believed that Jean was empathetic to the black minority group but it was upon deeper analysis that I realized her anger could be manifesting because she feels betrayed and mislead by her father more than the fact that she believes in equality. I am going to look at her reaction to the racist behavior in her family as well as the direct interaction between her and the black community to examine her empathy. Ultimately, consider whether or not her emotions are driven by accurate empathy or could be deemed egocentric.

Firstly, Jean Louise expresses her “disgust” and confusion after the realization of the racist nature of her family and the Maycomb community. The feeling of disgust is presented when she stumbles upon and reads a pamphlet in her father’s house, “The Black Plague”. This pamphlet speaks about the black community’s inferiority. As the reader, I was immediately made aware of her opinion on the content in the pamphlet. It is said that, “when she was finished, she took the pamphlet by one of the corners, held it like she would a dead rat by the tail” (Lee, 102). Through the association of ideas, it is clear that the content of the pamphlet disgusted Jean. We tend to associate rats with filth and as a result, they evoke the feeling of disgust. Shortly after reading the pamphlet she is informed by her Aunt, Alexandra, that her father received the pamphlet from the Citizen’s Council where he is part of the board of directors (Lee,103). The Citizens Council was a group formed to oppose racial integration. This continues to fuel her feeling of disgust and disappointment. In disbelief, she decides to go to the meeting to see this for herself. Harper Lee uses irony to comment on the changes of Jean’s father. It is ironic that she watches the Citizen Council meeting in the balcony, the same position she witnessed her father defend a black man. The position where she was lead to believe that her father was an upright and moral man is the same place where she questions his moral standing. The use of irony confirms her confusion to the reader. How could her father have completely changed his beliefs? Not only did she experience internal discomfort she also experienced physical discomfort after this ordeal. Lee states, “every nerve in her body shrieked, then died. She was numb” in addition to this “her throat tightened” (111).

It was in the conversation between Jean and her father that it was made clear to me that Jean may be feeling more than just empathy for the black community, I started considering the fact that she was experiencing anger. Anger, not at the treatment of the black community but anger that she was brought up to believe that they deserved a chance by people who did not hold that view. Atticus asks Jean in their conversation about the black community, “do you want them in our world?” (Lee, 246). There are black people living in Maycomb but this question makes it clear that though they are physically present they do not coexist in the same “world”. According to Atticus, they do not deserve the same opportunities he has, they should not be exposed to the same resources and power he has. Atticus’s beliefs anger Jean mainly because her principles are based on Atticus’s teachings and now she does not seem to know what she believes and why she believes it. She tells him, “when you talked of justice you forgot to say that justice is something that has nothing to do with people” (Lee, 247). In the same conversation, she tells him to “use your blind, immoral, misguided, nigger-lovin’ daughter as an example. Go in front of me with a bell and say, ‘Unclean!’. Point me out as your mistake.” (Lee, 248).

Furthermore, the interaction Jean has with Calpurina’s family clearly indicate how ignorant Jean is to her own privileges and the way she conducts herself and reacts to Calpurnia border on insensitive, making the reader further question her empathy. After Jean offers her father’s services as well as whatever help she can give Calpurnia, Calpurnia does not respond, and Jean says to her, “Cal, Cal, Cal, what are you doing to me? What’s the matter? .. What are you doing to me?” (160). To which Calpurnia says, “what are you doing to us?” (160). The constant reference to oneself is a sign that she is insensitive to the situation, bearing in mind that Calpurnia’s family member could be going to jail. Instead, she finds in more important for Calpurnia to accept her help as opposed to being there for her and listening which is what we tend to define empathy as. In addition to this Harper Lee describes her thoughts after leaving Calpurina’s house. It is stated that, “Why is it that everything I have ever loved on this earth has gone away from me in two days time?.. She loved us, I swear she loved us. She sat there in front of me and she didn’t see me, she saw white folks” (161).

All these emotions Jean experiences resulted in a “wave of invective”, as Harper Lee describes it () . It is clear that Jean empathizes with the black community and desires a world where equal opportunities are given to all. However, there is another consideration to be made when looking into her empathy. It seems as though she is infuriated by the fact that her father made her believe that he was something that he is not. The betrayal she feels is not on behalf of the black community but it is for herself. She feels her father has done her a disservice by not teaching her his own views. Maybe Jean is too privileged to be able to understand what the black community is going through sufficiently enough to invoke accurate empathy from her. This is evident because more than she is empathetic to the black community she is upset with her family for essentially ‘misleading’ her. This then begs the question of whether or not this kind of moral standing (empathy) is still viable or does it become less effective because it becomes less about the people Jean believes deserve a chance and more about Jean and how she feels. But does that mean that Jean’s empathy is completely inaccurate? How much empathy is enough empathy?

Work Cited

Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. Harper Collins, 2015. Print.

Is Social media really Destroying our Capacity for Accurate Empathy?

Empathy is arguably one of our most important attributes as humans, it allows us to communicate and interact successfully in society. More and more of our interactions are becoming virtual so it is important that we have an understanding of the effect social media has empathy.


Johnny Cook’s Post


In May of 2013, Johnny Cook posted this on Facebook after his interaction with a young boy who uses the bus service he used to work for. Cook’s post received a large amount of likes, comments, and shares from parents and individuals who empathized with the child as well as people who shared the same sentiments as Johnny Cook. After this post received attention on social media Johnny was called to speak to his superintended where he was given an ultimatum, “essentially recant and apologize or be fired” (cbs46.com). Cook claimed in an interview with CBS46 that “I felt like in my heart of hearts the kid was telling the truth. Whether he was or whether he wasn’t, I believed him. So I was not going to recant the story” (cbs46.com). As a result of this, Cook lost his job. Cook posted the fact that he lost his job on Facebook notifying everyone who had an interest in his story that his Facebook post cost him his job. This post received over 150, 000 shares on Facebook in one day (cbs46.com). In his interview, Cook said that in addition to the support from Facebook users he received phone calls from parents who could identify with the story of the little boy because their children have also received the same kind of treatment at their schools. Information from his interview does not mention whether or not he got his job back but it does emphasize the fact that Cook’s posts went viral. The article does mention that after his dismissal an online partition was made for people to sign in “support of Cook getting his job back” (cbs46.com).

Cook’s experience demonstrates that empathy can be created through social. P.J. Manney claims in her article, Is Technology Destroying Empathy?, that social media is a “morally neutral” instrument which can either be constructive or destructive and that is contingent on the intent when it is used (livescience.com). Her main argument is that, “to understand the power of communications technology, we must embrace the paradox: It will both destroy and create empathy” (Manney, livescience.com). In the case of Cook, empathy was created in the public that supported him and made a partition for him. However, one could argue whether or not the empathy they experienced was accurate because they did not have enough information on the case to warrant accurate empathy. It could be argued that Cook’s supported had enough information to create a genuine empathic response.

Manney states that empathy is created when “we discover the things we share” (livescience.com). This definition clearly corresponds with Cook’s case, most people share his sentiments. To the best of our ability we should ensure that children get meals at school, regardless of their financial ability. This is the reason why empathy was created in the public after reading his post. In Manney’s definition of the creation of empathy, we can clearly identify the shortcoming of the creation of empathy (in social media). Essentially if you do not “share” anything with the individual who is posting on social media you cannot empathize with them, creating in-group bias. She claims that social media highlights in group bias because in this form of communication individuals “read and watch their own thoughts repeated in recursive echo chambers of increasingly radical and exclusionary thought” (Manney, livescience.com). This makes contradicting views foreign to you consequently destroying empathy.

More often than not, social media should create empathy because as a human race have more in common than we have differences. And because we share more than we fail to understand about each other, social media should not destroy our capacity for accurate empathy. Like in the case of Cook. Manney makes this argument

P.J. Manney also considers the instances when social media creates empathy and uses those instances as valid reasoning to argue that social media can also create empathy. This is based on the notion that empathy is created when we discover the things we share and as a human race we have more in common than we have differences. For instance, the majority of the human race share the same fundamental principles, such as the support for equal rights for women. Manney uses the examples of same-sex marriages in the West and the role social media played in raising awareness which was successful because of empathy. Manney also speaks about the murders in Charleston and how social media created empathy. The conclusion she draws from these examples is that more often than not we all have the ability to relate to one another because of the various fundamental values and ideologies we all share.

Cook’s Facebook post is an example that created empathy as well as destroyed it according to Manney’s reasoning. This is because Cook’s expression and his view are one that most parents share, which allowed for the creation of empathy in parents and the general public. In the same manner, Cook’s post destroyed empathy in his supervisors because to them the good name of the school as well as their company was being tarnished by Cook’s Facebook post. His employer values their reputation more than the principle Cook’s post speaks to, and it is for this reason that his employer could not empathize with Cook or the little boy. This example shows the limitation of empathy as well as illustrating how technology can both create and destroy empathy depending on the audience and how the message is translated or understood.

Image reference

Johnny Cook’s post, imagehttps://www.google.com/search?q=facebook+post+bus+driver16 Oct. 2016

Work Cited

Meredith Corporation. “Bus Driver Loses Job after Facebook Post about Student”. N.p., 31 May 2013, http://www.cbs46.com/story/22473174/bus-driver-loses-job-after-facebook-post Accessed 16 Oct. 2016

Manney, P.J. “Is Technology Destroying Empathy? – Live Science.” N.p., 30 June 2015. Web. 17 Oct. 2016

The Blinkering effect of Decency vs Moral Deliberation

Morton defines empathy as the “emotional and imaginative capacities to the task to understand others” (318). This definition is used to examine what he refers to as a limitation of empathy which he defines as the “Blinkering effect of Decency” (329). This limitation is a barrier most “morally sensitive” individuals face as they try and empathize with people who commit atrocious acts (Morton, 318). Though we can imagine the factors that got an individual to do an atrocious act Morton argues that, “there are deep obstacles to the kind of sympathetic identification required for empathy” (321). Furthermore, Morton claims that “barriers affect our imagination of choice, so inhibits us from making nasty choices vivid” (321). This claim gives me the understanding that this limitation is more of a choice not to accurately empathize with people who commit these acts. Because of this one is made to wonder if the Blinkering effect of decency is really a limitation of empathy. I fail to see the Blinkering Effect of Decency as a limitation, due to the fact that it has to do with a choice on the part of the empathizer it should not be categorized as a limitation.

Another consideration to keep in mind when looking at Morton’s argument is the fact that the blinkering effect is not absolute. The blinkering effect cannot be boiled down to an absolute phenomenon nor can it be universal, rather this based on an individual. Consequently, I would like to make the claim that the blinkering effect is not necessarily a limitation but rather the blinkering effect allows us to personally engage in “moral deliberation” increasing the effectiveness of our empathy (IEMD, Stueber). Therefore, I would like to consider the possibility that it is not the case that we cannot empathize with these individuals but rather we choose not to after careful consideration. Therefore The Blinkering effect of Decency or Moral Deliberation could be perceived as a tool that fosters accurate empathy.

According to Stueber’s article, Imagination, Empathy and Moral Deliberation “imaginative resistance” or the blinkering effect “reveals something about the very nature of our humanity that is constituted by the interplay of our capacities for empathy, imagination, and moral reason” (IEMD). The blinkering effect is more than just our inability to imagine certain situations but it also involves moral deliberation. Moral deliberation allows one to consider why the atrocious act was done and whether or not it was reasonable. Our imagination is extremely powerful, which is why I do not believe it is a source of limitation. Take for instance the use of the imaginative power in literature interpretation, we are able to use our imagination to empathize with fictional characters like Macbeth who commit atrocious acts (IEMD, Stuber). It is more than our inability to imagine that restricts our empathy, but more a result of critical thinking and choice. In the case of Macbeth, I would like to believe that the blinkering effect was at play, we considered the barriers Macbeth had to face and yet still we choose to empathize with him. In this example we can see how The Blinkering Effect resulted in accurate empathy from the audience.

We need to come to terms with the fact that not ever atrocious act is deserving of our empathy and through the blinkering effect we are able to filter out those that we consider worthy of our empathy, therefore increasing the accuracy of our empathy. Moral deliberation gives us “the capacity to determine whether harm is reasonable or unreasonable” (IEMD, Stueber). The blinkering effect comes as a result of us engaging with scenarios on a level that allows for reflection which ultimately leads to greater accuracy in empathy.

Morton’s argument is one I agree with only to a certain extent. I concur that The Blinkering Effect has an influence on our empathy however I would not go as far as labeling that effect as a restriction to empathy. Stueber states that The Blinkering Effect or Imaginative Resistance is “a stage that we reach when we stop merely trying to understand another person’s perspective and start reflecting critically on that perspective” (IEMD). Something to examine after viewing Morton’s argument is whether or not we are required to empathize with every perpetrator of atrocious acts? His argument is presented in a way that could be interpreted as a claim that it is only our limited imagination that limits our empathy, as though every individual is deserving of our empathy and the only thing standing in our way is our imagination. Empathy is an important emotion however it cannot be applied in every situation.

Work Cited

Morton, Adam, and Peter Goldie. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. 318-30. Print

Stueber, Karsten R. “Imagination, Empathy, and Moral Deliberation: The Case of Imaginative Resistance.” The Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (2011): 156-80. Web.

A Time to Kill – does empathy promote justice?

The themes of empathy and justice are a central component of Joel Schumacher’s A Time to Kill. In this note I take empathy to be the “awareness of another’s feelings” or “feeling what another feels” (Hoffman 230) and understand justice to be the notion of fair treatment, that everyone should get what they deserve. I will explore the relationship between these two in the film. A Time to Kill tells the story of the prosecution of a black man, Carl Lee, who killed the two men who raped his 10-year-old daughter. His motive was the belief that the black community could not get a fair trial in the South at the time. Carl Lee states, “how a black man ever going to get a fair trial, with the enemy on the bench in the jury box. My life in white hands?” (TK). In his trial, Carl Lee justifiably feels as though he is both the victim and the accused. The fight for justice in this film goes beyond what is found in the law. In my view, this film powerfully portrays how law and justice are not necessarily co-extensive. The law is a set of rules made by society, and when the film was set societal norms were not ‘just’, Tonya and Carl Lee did not live in a “fair” society. It is for this reason that I would argue that empathy did promote justice because justice could not be found in the law in A Time to Kill.

This blog post is going to look at whether or not the ultimate verdict arrived at by the jury, acquitting Carl Lee, was an act of justice, consequently: since this decision was arrived at primarily by empathizing with the accused, reflecting on the role empathy played in either promoting or obstructing justice. To achieve this, I am going to look at tools used to invoke and portray empathy, as well as their effects, throughout the trial, then move onto looking at whether or not Carl Lee’s acquittal was an act of justice.

Firstly, let us consider the effect of empathy invoked in characters (mainly the jury) as well as the audience to create a platform for the discussion of whether or not empathy promoted or obstructed justice. To begin with, let us consider Carl Lee’s direct examination. In this scene, the camera is placed at a constant distance that centers Carl Lee’s face on the screen at all times as he explains how he felt. Having the frame only on Carl Lee’s face detaches him from the rest of the cast, which reflects his feeling of loneliness, isolation, and helplessness, which happen to be the same feelings his daughter experienced. This aids in invoking empathy because helplessness and loneliness are emotions everyone can relate to. In addition to this, the camera circles Carl Lee, a technique which is referred to as an “Arc shot” (Arc shot, mediacollege.com). Circling Carl Lee with extremely close range creates this impression that the viewer is getting insight on what is happening in Carl Lee’s mind as he speaks, which makes the viewer feel as though they have a deeper understanding of his innermost thoughts and feelings as he relays them to the courthouse. This invokes empathy because it enables the reader to appreciate what he was feeling, creating the sense of awareness and ultimately making it easier to feel what he felt. Furthermore, Carl Lee uses emotive language as well as an anecdote to invoke empathy in the jury. Carl Lee speaks about how he as Tonya’s father could not protect or help her at that moment, which is considered to be the role of a father. He talks about how all he could hear was his daughter say, “I called for you daddy. When them men was hurting me. I called for you, over and over. But you didn’t never come” (TK). This scene invokes empathy for both Tonya and Carl Lee. It should be noted that the only question used by the defense was, “How did you feel”, indicating that their whole case was based on getting the jurors to understand his emotions.

Furthermore, Carl Lee’s attorney, Jake, explicitly states that to win the case “the jury needs to identify with the defendant”, and to create this link of identification Jake used empathy in his closing statement (TK). It is also important to note that before Jake’s closing statement the jurors had all decided that Carl Lee was guilty, so given that he was acquitted, we can safely infer that the case was won by Jake’s closing statement. Jake uses ethos and pathos to appeal to the jury in his last address to the court, he too uses an anecdote to vividly describe what Tonya went through to invoke empathy in the jury. He speaks about how her innocence and purity was violated. He also uses literary features such as groups of three to emphasize the trauma and the pain she went through. When describing her body, he states that it was, “raped, beaten and broken” in addition to this he says it was “soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen and soaked in her blood” (TK). The technique Jake used to deliver his statement is also critical in evaluating its effectiveness. He speaks extremely slow to make sure that he gives the jury enough time to not only hear what he says but internalize it too. Lastly, there is the use of discontinuous movement in the scene, the frame moves from Jake’s face to the jury and then to the Hailey family. This increases empathy in the audience because it allows the audience to see the people who were directly affected by what happened to Tonya as Jake relays it. As illustrated above this closing argument invoked an “empathic feeling of injustice”, the preference for equity, to communicate that Carl Lee deserves to be acquitted (Hoffman 238).

It could be argued that the immense use of pathos compromised the jury’s ability to use “rational emotions”, emotions we can trust in the law (Nussbaum 72), inhibiting them from being “judicious spectators”. According to Nussbaum a “judicious spectator” is not only able to use rational emotions but also has the ability to “care” for both the victim and the accused in a trial. A “judicious spectator” is an individual who is able to “vividly” imagine what it is like to be both parties in the trial, which is what him/her an ideal juror (73). However, I want us to consider the possibility that the jurors in the film were not judicious spectators until empathy was invoked in them. Evidence in the film leads us to believe that the jurors did not care for Carl Lee. In the beginning of the trial, one of the jurors refers to the fact that he has to go back to his family, implying that he does not regard Carl Lee’s life as important or deserving of his time. Furthermore, this vocal juror states, “that nigger is dead” after he initiated an informal vote before the end of the trial. This indicates that he had a preconceived verdict, further emphasizing his disregard for Carl Lee (TK). The use of pathos in Jake’s statement, “now imagine she’s white”, essentially assisted the jurors to be judicious spectators, allowing them to care for Carl Lee and appreciate what it is his family went through as well as consider the lives of the two boys who were killed. This statement allowed the jurors to empathize with Carl Lee possibly for the first time in the trial. Which is why I strongly believe that empathy promoted justice in the film A Time to Kill. Without empathy, the jurors were not going to be “judicious spectators” and ultimately acquit Carl Lee.

Work Cited
Hoffman, Martin L.”Empathy, Justice and the Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives.Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.
(2011). pp 230-254. Print

A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Sandra Bullock. Warner Bros, 1996. Web. 20 Sept. 2016

Arc Shot. Arc Shot. N.p., n.d. Web. www.mediacollege.com/video/shots/arc.html 24 Sept. 2016

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

Blog Assignment 3

Throughout the film A Time to Kill empathy is invoked through the trial of Carl Lee. However, I will zone in on the prison scene which takes place after Jake, Carl Lee’s attorney, realizes that he cannot come up with a closing statement that will acquit Carl Lee for the murder of the two boys who raped his 10-year daughter. In this scene Carl Lee’s character invokes empathy in Jake as well as the audience by depicting the challenges a black man faces in the South. This is an eye opening scene because throughout the film we are led to believe that Jake has been empathizing with Carl Lee, whereas Carl Lee points out that Jake does not fully understand how difficult it is for a black man living in the south in the late 80s and therefore has not begun to empathize with him. And it follows that to be able to empathize one needs to understand the feelings of another. We see this when Carl Lee states that, “You see Jake, you think just like them. That’s why I picked you… when you look at me you don’t see a man, you see a BLACK man” (TK).

Understanding of one’s feelings is arguably one of the most salient characteristics of empathy. In this scene Carl Lee invokes empathy in Jake because he tries to make him understand that it takes more than just representing a black man and talking about race on television to fully comprehend the difficult circumstances that they face in society (TK). Carl Lee effectively invokes empathy in Jake through a comparison of their similarities and differences, for instance they both have daughters of roughly the same age yet they will never get to play together (TK). Carl Lee’s speech is particularly effective because Jake starts off by referring to the jury as “they” and how “they need to relate to the defendant”. Then Carl Lee clearly points out to Jake that he is also one of “them” no matter how much he does not want to identify with them he has the privileges they have and consequently to some degree he shares their mindset. This clarification then helps Jake fully understand what Carl Lee is going through, enabling him to empathize with Carl Lee and ultimately helping him win the case.

Furthermore, this scene invokes apparent empathy in the audience. In this scene Carl Lee discusses the ills of the American society at the time. This aids in making the audience have a full picture of the extent of the challenge Carl Lee was faced with, a (fair) trial for a black man in the south. This is illustrated in the beginning of the scene when Carl Lee suggests that if it was Jake on trial things would have been a lot different and Jake clearly states that it isn’t him on trial and that they are different (TK). This makes the audience consider the extent of the role Carl Lee’s race played in his trial, invoking empathy because race should not be playing any role in justice. Carl Lee states, “How a black man ever going to get a fair trial with the enemy on the bench and the jury box. My life in white hands”. Carl Lee successfully depicts the idea of a divide in society, the idea of “us” and “them”, as well as how one side is favored over the other. This invokes empathy in the audience as well as invoking some form of annoyance or irritation in the audience because of the prejudices at the time. This scene also makes the audience reflect on the idea of justice and right and wrong. One is made to consider whether or not the context of Carl Lee’s actions makes what he did right.

Work Cited
A Time to Kill. Dir. Joel Schumacher. Perf. Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson and Sandra Bullock. Warner Bros, 1996. Web. 18 Sept. 2016

Blog 2: Closing Statement

Members of the jury this case boils to evidence and testimony. I am here to ask you whether you will use the evidence presented to reach a verdict, or rather hearsay delivered in this courtroom today. What is the evidence? We know that the state has failed to deliver any medical evidence connecting Tom Robinson to the crime. We are also aware of the fact that the state’s Chief witness, Mayella Ewell, was beaten by an individual who has functionality of both hands and greater control of the left. And yet we have charged, and are bringing, a man who cannot be placed at the scene of the crime nor has the function of his left hand to question. What the defense has successfully done, however, is present two witnesses who have failed to bring coherent testimonies to the events of the crime when compared to the information given to us by the State’s Chief witness, Mayella Ewell. I ask once again; will you use evidence or testimony to reach a decision?

Tom Robinson stands before you, charged on the basis of a stereotype, the basic assumption that all black men are dangerous. And yet Tom Robinson is a kind hearted man, all he ever did was help Mayella because he felt sorry for her. Mayella Ewell is fragile, ignorant and a victim of manipulation. Who would not feel sorry for her?

I do not want to be part of a courtroom that does not believe that a black man has the capacity to feel, not just feel, but feel like a young ignorant and helpless woman deserves compassion. And that is all Tom Robinson did, he had a sense of compassion and humanity. When I look at Mayella Ewell I see a helpless and unfortunate woman, a woman in need of help. Does the color of Tom Robinson’s skin blind him from her misfortune? The state has continued to play to the exhibition that black men are dangerous and expect the court to do the same. Their case is based on the assumption that no black man has the ability to feel because all they are capable of is violence. Dare I say that in many ways Tom Robinson is similar to you and me – he feels. And just like you and I would, he felt for Mayella.

This brave black man is willing to stand and fight for what is right, he is willing to stand for honesty even though it may be difficult because of our societal norms. He stands here in a courtroom filled with jurors who are more similar to the two men who lied on the stand just to see Tom Robinson pay for a crime he did not commit. I admire Tom, he is willing to stand for what we believe in as a community. He stands for honesty; he will not make a mockery of the court nor will he do what would be easier – accepting what the state considers to be his fate. Because in what world can the word of a white man be overruled by that of a black man? In a world I strive to live in, the word of an honest man will always overrule that of a dishonest one.

Once again I will ask: today, will you allow justice to be based on hearsay or evidence?

Work Cited:
To Kill a Mockingbird. Dir. Robert Mulligan. By Horton Foote. Perf. Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, and Philip Alford. Universal International, 1962. Web. 10 Sept 2016.

Blog 1: Summary of “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” by Hoffman

In the extract, “Empathy, Justice, and the Law” by Martin L. Hoffman, the author address the ongoing discussion of whether or not empathy should give way to reason and logic in justice and the law. Hoffman’s main argument is that empathy should continue to play a role in justice and the law but only under certain conditions. He supports this through a number of ways.

Firstly by clearly defining empathy and the different spheres it can manifest, for instance its “meta- cognitive dimension” (Hoffman 231). This is described in the extract as a feeling or response in someone because of another’s adversity while being conscious of the fact that the adversity is not their own and one can only merely imagine the feelings of the next person, which is the main kind of empathy we see in justice and the law (231).

In clarifying these terms Hoffman is enabled to describe the positive role empathy can play in justice and the law, such as its motivational properties. Hoffman claims that, “empathy arousal leads to observers helping victims” (231). as well as leading to a desire for “fairness, reciprocity, equity”, which is vital for justice. Furthermore, Hoffman touches on scenarios where empathy positively influenced laws in the past as in the case of Harriet Beecher Stow’s book, which ultimately contributed to the abolition of slavery and the role empathy played in the desegregation decision in the U.S. Supreme Court. However, in these cases Hoffman also touches on the drawbacks of empathy in justice, where he conveys that empathy on its own is not enough, where he brings out the bias in empathy as well as its fragility (250).

Therefore Hoffman’s main conclusion can be summarized in the statement, “for empathy to play a constructive role it must be linked to a legal concept”.

Work Cited:
Hoffman, Martin L.”Empathy, Justice and the Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives.Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54.Print.
(2011). pp 230-254. Print