Summary about the article

In the article Empathy,Justice, and Law, the Author Martin L. Hoffman has discussed mainly about how empathy works on individual and how empathy plays a significant role in Law-establishing. He first provides his definition on affective empathy and then shifts to elaborate how this works on a single person — what our inner mind movement would be when we have witnessed something bad happened on others and how do these progresses in our mind form up when we are still a child. After provides several stages of how we would be affected by others’ distress and how we develop our own empathy system, Hoffman uses people’s extremely strong empathetic reaction toward those who suffer from unjust treatment as a connection in his article to link empathy to decision making in Supreme Court Room.  After Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin has prepared people for the dark side of the world, the segregation of the Black and White students in school challenges people’s understanding of the fairness. Hoffman states the example of how empathy makes judges consider the injustice and hurtfulness of “separate but equal” policy and finally decides to include the Black to school with white students. He then strengthens empathy’s role by giving the example of allowing women to have complete right to control their mind and body, which in the case is the decision to allow abortion. But then he also points out that there are fragile parts of empathy too in decision making such as people will tend to be more inclined to those who share close relationship with them and that will often swipe out justice and fairness from their decisions.Then after discussing about the drawbacks of empathetic bias in court, that is  whether we should let jury hear the distressful victim’s statement because it is so emotional that would probably affect the judge’s decision, Hoffman comes to a conclusion. He states that empathy as a role in court room and in Law-establishing is extremely important but not good enough.Though it indeed lays the path for us to understand what is needed to make a through decision, the way to make it perfect should be understanding the vulnerability of empathy and eliminating the bias that will exist when empathy goes too far.

2 thoughts on “Summary about the article

  1. In Zhou’s blog post, the author’s answer to the main argument is missing at first but appeared at the last paragraph, generally he includes all parts of the summary and specifically concentrated on explaining examples the author gave. I agree with him on his understanding of the main argument in the passage and the author’s answer to it because he includes both the pro-social attribute and the limitations which is what I did in mine. In his summary, Zhou mainly elaborated on the examples of ‘witnessing effect’ and the law-changing cases involving empathy, which strongly tied to the overall purpose of the essay that empathy is pro-social behavior and can play important role in making and changing laws. However, I notice that the development stages of empathy and the witnessing effect are concluded in a few sentences. From my point of view, the summary can be more effective if he uses own words to explain the development stages and how they progress to the ‘witnessing effect’.

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