In the article 《Empathy, Justice, and the law》, the author Martin L. Hoffman focuses his point around the role of empathy in laws. While some writers consolidate the importance of empathy based on humanity concern, others insist that empathy deserves no position to serve fairness. As a combination of such opposite opinions, Hoffman’s standpoint is that empathy is indispensable in legal decisions despite some bias and limitations, as long as empathy is applied properly and considerately. With theoretical explanation of empathy development and attribution, he puts forward historical events that reach profound influence based on empathy, without which the outcome may go completely different. Meanwhile, negative sides of empathy are dug deeply around empathy’s fragility and bias in courts. He provides that such kind of limitation of empathy has been recognized by judges and taught to law students so that legal decision can be made more fair and justice. As Hoffman’s thesis emphasized, empathy, with pro-social motives, owns its necessity in legal decisions process only if it’s properly applied and if consequences of empathy use are specifically considered before empathy steps into courtroom that serves justice and strives to build a sound-and-fair society.
The very key term I found in this article is “pro-social”. This is a term that seems professional but is expanded in a way that is easy to understand. As shown in Page 239, “This letter is a good example of intense distress motivating long-term pro-social action as well as evidence in the particular case that empathic distress was a prime motivator or Stowe’s writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin”. As positive influence brought by empathy, pro-social action corresponds with the part that describes “witnessing” as the intense distress that makes people compelled to help others over an extended period of time in Page 237. Basically, long-term pro-social action is kind of one’s will to provide time-endurable help at great cost. The term is important because it testifies the validity of empathy by emphasizing the profound effect of it to a humane society. At the same time, this concept is also adopted in Page 254 as “pro-social legal principles” to emphasize the balance between empathy and reasoning. Different usages above all relate the focus to Hoffman’s thesis that empathy is important if it is appropriately applied and linked to legal principles that boost the process toward fairness.
Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254