Assignment1

In the passage Empathy, Justice, and Law, author gives his own reflection on the question: how empathy relates to law and justice? He holds the views that empathy, despise its own limitation and bias, is of great significance in changing laws and promoting social justice. To illustrate his viewpoint, he, first and foremost, states that empathy distress can attribute to a pro-social motive to a great extent. Then, he raises five empathic arousals, mimicry, conditioning, direct association, verbally mediate association, perspective taking, which could operate alone or in any combination so that empathy would be amplified to a bigger scope to include variously significant types of distress. Afterwards, the author talks about three stages of the Empathy development, in which children are able to develop a full sense of empathy as adults, Veridical Empathy, Empathic Distress over one’s life condition, Empathy for distressed groups. Especially, with the empathic distress over one’s life condition, one can have the empathy for a distressed group, which is so intense that might progress to change one’s behavior beyond the immediate situation. This is called “witnessing”. What’s more, author explains how empathy contributes to law. Because people have such a strong preference of justice that they would first be empathy with someone in distress, then realizing the cause is injustice turn the feeling of injustice to an empathic feeling of injustice, people have a strong tendency to make, apply and change laws. This is followed by the examples of empathic individuals, Harriet and Yale Kamisar, who change laws. At the end, author discuss empathy’s affection in US Supreme Court Decisions: the empathy toward the injustice of black children foster the school desegregation; the empathy toward women who bear baby in accident or against their own will boost legalizing abortion. Also, author admits that there are negatives side of empathy in courtroom. Empathy has its own limitation: it is intensified by salience and intensity of distress cues and people’s relationship to the victim. The limitation can cause biases, which would affect the right judgement and justice within the court. In conclusion, author believes that empathy plays a vital role in law and court decision, meanwhile we should keep in mind the empathic bias.

In the passage, author uses the keyword “Veridical Empathy” that differs from the way that we normally use. According to him, by mid-childhood, children could have veridical empathy that they can not only recognize the external sign of oneself that could suggest other’s feeling, but also can aware the inner feeling of one’s self. This allow children to have a growing awareness of emotions that are not felt or do not express. Also, they can increase they understanding of the causality of different emotions so that they are capable of empathizing with subtle distress feeling. These enable children to empathize another’s feeling, take other’s perspective and, most importantly, offer help that suits other’s needs. This concept is especially important because it describe how empathy develops through toddlerhood and how it would help children to became mature adults that could transit the right sense of empathy into making right legal decision, changing laws and promoting social justice.

One thought on “Assignment1

  1. In the passage above, the author summarized the essay “Empathy, Justice and Law” precisely and effectively. The writer presented most parts of the summary of the original passage and gave examples on them. However, some keywords, such as “Victim-impact statements”, “slavery abortion”, are missing. Although the author did mentioned the points which were presented in the original passage, I think adding these keywords could make the summary’s points clearer. The author claimed that Hoffman’s question is “How empathy relates to law and justice”, which is what Hoffman really asked in the passage. But I think the question could be change into “How SHOULD empathy affect law and justice”, which, form my own perspective, would be more accurate. The answer of Hoffman to the question that the writer gave us is exactly what Hoffman wanted to say, good job!

    Overall, I think that this is a fantastic summary that not only posted most of the viewpoints that Hoffman wanted to say but also included the writer’s own understanding of the original passage. Although the passage is short and only have one paragraph, the points and examples are all precisely presented. I think this is a great summary of the passage “Empathy, Justice and Law”.

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