Proposing Research On Empathy and Schizophrenia

A person’s capability to empathize fully depends on one’s mental ability to understand, relate and identify with another’s feelings and actions. The lack of understanding and social isolation are common characteristics of people with mental disorders, which leaves them with a significantly limited ability to empathize. One of the most acute mental disorder’s known to humanity is a schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is characterized by abnormal social behavior, social isolation, breakdown between thought, emotion and behavior leading to inappropriate emotional responses and inappropriate comprehension of actions and feelings. Thus, patients with schizophrenia demonstrate deficits in emotional processing and perspective taking, which is vital for empathizing. All of this leads me to the question: what is the reason behind the limited empathy in people with schizophrenia and in what extent do those diagnosed with schizophrenia experience empathy?

•Russel Crowe as John Nash in the Movie “A Beautiful Mind”

• Russell Crowe as John Nash in the Movie “A Beautiful Mind”

From my perspective, answering this question will be extremely challenging and thus interesting for a few reasons. First of all, as a huge fan of John Nash, one of the best economist who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I regard schizophrenia as one of the most interesting medical conditions. Therefore, exploring the reasons behind the lack of empathy that are caused by a mental disorder that physically limits one’s ability to empathize will be extremely interesting and fascinating. Secondly, understanding the reason behind the lack of empathy and the extent of how those diagnosed with schizophrenia experience it will help us to shed light on the possible reasons and explanations behind social isolation that people with such mental disorders are characterized by. Finally, understanding the reasons behind limited empathy among individuals affected by schizophrenia will help us to better understand probable medical reasons behind lack of empathy in healthy individuals.

Recently, in class, we discussed the limitations of empathy and reasons behind the lack of it. However, most of the reasons we discussed were focusing on a person’s background, barrier-overcoming profile, views and other non-innate factors. My topic will be relevant to and interesting for our course as it will provide a rather different view on the limitations of empathy. I expect most of the sources to focus on more medical and scientific explanations of lack of empathy among individuals with schizophrenia. Moreover, understanding medical explanations on the lack of empathy, will further help us understand scientific reasons why we do actually feel empathy and what promotes our ability to empathize. One of the scholarly sources that I will use to get insight into the topic is an article by H. Haker and W. Rossler “Empathy in Schizophrenia: Impaired Resonance,” which describes differences in empathetic resonance in individuals with schizophrenia and healthy ones. All of this will help us to shed the light on the both the reasons behind empathy and the reasons behind lack of it.

Potential Sources:

  • Haker, H., and W. Rossler. “Empathy in Schizophrenia: Impaired Resonance.” European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, vol. 259, no. 6, 2009., pp. 352-361.
  • Bonfils, Kelsey A., et al. “Affective Empathy in Schizophrenia: A Meta-Analysis.” Schizophrenia research, vol. 175, no. 1-3, 2016., pp. 109-117.
  • Derntl, Birgit, et al. “Generalized Deficit in all Core Components of Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research, vol. 108, no. 1, 2009., pp. 197-206.
  • Didehbani, N., et al. “Insight and Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research, vol. 142, no. 1-3, 2012., pp. 246-247.
  • Shamay-Tsoory, Simone G., et al. “Neurocognitive Basis of Impaired Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Neuropsychology, vol. 21, no. 4, 2007., pp. 431-438.
  • McCormick, LM, et al. “Mirror Neuron Function, Psychosis, and Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Psychiatry Research-Neuroimaging, vol. 201, no. 3, 2012., pp. 233-239
  • Derntl, Birgit, et al. “Neural Correlates of the Core Facets of Empathy in Schizophrenia.” Schizophrenia Research, vol. 136, no. 1-3, 2012., pp. 70-81.
  • Russell Crowe as John Nash in the Movie “A Beautiful Mind”

Limitations of Empathy

Empathy is a powerful force, a force that leads us to understanding, a force that sometimes helps us to forgive and acquit, a force that encourages us to pursue the justice and a force that can make changes in the law. We encounter acts of empathy every day, however, sometimes we overlook the limits that are connected with it, the limits that sometimes decide the fate of a person’s or group of people’s life or career. All of this raises the question: what are the limitations of empathy and why and when do they occur? I believe that limitations of empathy are caused by lack of connection and identification, lack of accurate empathy and in modern day, lack of real life communication.

From my perspective, the capacity of empathize fully depends on empathizers ability to identify with the person being empathized. Tim Gauthier, in his article “’Selective in your mercies’: privilege, vulnerability, and the limits of empathy in Ian McEwan’s Saturday,” provides us with his idea about what causes people’s selectiveness in empathy. According to Tim, “one is likely to choose the proximal and recognizable as objects of empathy and turn away from the remote and the unfamiliar” (Gauthier). Hence, in order to be able to empathize with a person, we need some kind of connection that will help us put ourselves in that person’s shoe and to identify ourselves with him or her.

Empathy and Connection

Empathy and Connection

The lack of identification and connection in Ian McEwan’s novel that Gauthier addresses is a common practice in literature. One of the most popular paradigms of this phenomenon in literature is the loss of the connection between Jean Louise and her father in Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman,” which led to the lack of empathy that Jean experiences. The post “Empathy and Connection: What Lead to Lack of Empathy in Go Set a Watchman” addresses the question whether Atticus changed from one novel to another and further analyses how the new face of Atticus led to not only a lack of empathy, but to a complete lack of understanding between him and his daughter. According to the post, even though most of the readers believe that Atticus has changed from the old Atticus whom we all loved in the movie and novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, the reality is that Atticus has never changed. According to the post, we have been presented with two inaccurate and radically different faces of Atticus Finch that were based on Jean Louise’s view of her father. At first, she viewed her father as a paragon of a kind and honorable man. However, in the later novel, she views him as an evil person and even compares him to Hitler. The question is: what is the reason behind sudden lack of understanding and lack of empathy towards her father that Jean Louise experiences? According to the post, all the years that Jean spent in New York led to the loss of her connection with her father and the city of Maycomb in general; suddenly everything looked strange and unfamiliar to her. The loss of identification with her father and with her city eventually led Jean to experience a lack of understanding and a lack of empathy.

In Jean Louise’s case, it is clear – the lack of empathy was caused by the loss of connection, which by itself was caused by her living in New York, far away from her father and the city of Maycomb. However, there are some cases where, even though a connection is present, understanding and thus empathy is still limited or even lacking. In order to understand why empathy is lacking in such cases, we need a deeper understanding of different types of empathy and we need to find an accurate one that will prevent us from being selective in our empathy. Friedrich Nietzsche, in his book Daybreak, links empathy with some form of inner imitation: “Empathy – To understand another person, that is to imitate his feelings in ourselves, we … produce the feeling in ourselves after the effects it exerts and displays on the other person by imitating with our own body the expression of his eyes, his voice, his walk, his bearing” (Nietzsche, 142). Today, the phenomenon of inner imitation described by Friedrich is regarded as mirroring. Remy Debes, in his article, “Which empathy? Limitations in the mirrored ‘understanding’ of emotion,” uses phenomenon of mirroring to display the psychological reasons behind the lack of understanding and empathy. According to Remy, even though mirroring is the key to understanding, it is only a “simplistic version of recognition” (Debes, 236). In other words, in order to fully understand a person, just imitating his or her feelings is not enough. We need to actually feel the other person’s feelings.

Accurate Empathy

Accurate Empathy

The importance of actually feeling the other person’s feelings and using an accurate empathy is more palpable when it comes to empathizing with those who did atrocious acts. Most of the time, there is a lack of understanding towards perpetuators. Thus, to overcome the limitation, we need an accurate empathetic emotion. The post, “The Accurate Empathy: Limitations of Empathy in Adam Morton ‘Empathy for The Devil,’” addresses the question of how distinguishing between imitating other person’s feelings and actually experiencing them might help us to overcome the limitations of empathy, and how to apply it towards those who did evil, atrocious acts. The post states that the key to understanding and empathizing is using self-oriented rather than other-oriented empathy. According to the post, self-oriented empathy is adjusting other person’s position to ourselves and applying our own background and feelings towards the situation, rather than taking that person’s perspective with their feelings and backgrounds. The post provides MJ Banissy’s and Philip L Jackson’s arguments about how and why self-oriented empathy leads to greater understanding than other-oriented empathy. Furthermore, it underlines Adam Morton’s perspective on the limitation of the empathy to understand those who did evil acts. The post displays Morton’s “why versus how” problem, which illustrates that the lack of empathy towards perpetuators is due to lack of understanding of why a person did that particular act, out of all of the options, rather than just understanding why a person committed the atrocity. Therefore, as revealed by the post, the limitation of empathy towards a perpetuator arises when there is a lack of understanding of how a person overcame the barrier and did the atrocity, which occurs when we use inaccurate, other-oriented, empathy.

Usage of inaccurate empathetic emotion and lack of connection both lead to a lack of empathy in real life situations. However, in modern day, with the rising age of technology, we experience even more lack of empathy in virtual life, which raises the question: what is the reason behind the extreme limitation of empathy in social media and internet? The post “Empathy, Internet and Social Media” addresses the question as to why the lack of empathy arises among internet users and users of social media.

Limitation of Empathy in Digital Age

Limitation of Empathy in Digital Age

According to the post, the lack of empathy in digital age, as revealed by Christopher Terry, is due to anonymity, asynchronicity and lack of face-to-face presence. According to the post, the internet gives users a chance to possess an alternative identity that frees them from need of expressing any kind of empathy towards other users. Moreover, due to lack of immediate response, users are more likely to be critical and are more likely to lack the understanding of other’s actions and emotions. Finally, lack of face-to-face presence undermines any kind of non-verbal communication, which plays a huge role in real life empathy. Furthermore, it presents real life examples of how the upper mentioned reasons led to the lack of empathy and eventually led to the firing of a person. Therefore, as revealed by the post, with a rising digital age, the limitations of empathy arise as well and become more significant.

Understanding different reasons behind the limitations of empathy, we can conclude that in order to empathize, we need a connection and an identification with a person, we need to use an accurate empathetic emotion in order understand how a person committed an atrocity and we need to rely less on the effects of social media and internet when communicating. All of this will help us overcome the limitations of empathy and will help us to be less selective with our empathy.

Work Cited:

  • Nietzsche, Friedrich W., Maudemarie Clark, and Brian Leiter. Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, Cambridge University Press, New York; Cambridge, U.K, 1997.
  • Debes, Remy. “Which Empathy? Limitations in the Mirrored “Understanding” of Emotion.”Synthese, vol. 175, no. 2, 2010; 2009, pp. 219-239.
  • Gauthier, Tim. “”Selective in Your Mercies”: Privilege, Vulnerability, and the Limits of Empathy in Ian McEwan’s Saturday.”College Literature, vol. 40, no. 2, 2013., pp. 7-30

Image Sources:

Empathy and Connection: What Lead to Lack of Empathy in Go Set a Watchman

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in Movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962)

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in Movie “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962)

Harper Lee, in her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, displayed a paragon of a kind and honorable person, whom everybody admired as a father, as a lawyer and as a friend and who we know by the name of Atticus Finch. His final speech for the defense of Tom Robinson inspired generations of lawyers and illustrated his aspiration towards justice and fairness. Atticus was a person, whom his children and we, the readers and viewers, looked up to as an ideal father and impeccable man. Therefore, it was a huge surprise and shock for Jean, his daughter, and for us, the readers, to witness a new face of Atticus Finch, a face of a racist man, in Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set a Watchman.” A man we once admired for his idealistic views, justice and color blindness now said nonsenses such as “do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” (Lee, 245). A man that once inspired us to act with fairness and taught us that “all men are created equal”, now seemed to be a typical white southern citizen of the 1950’s (TKAM). Seeing the new face of Atticus Finch confuses both Jean Louise and us, the readers, which leads to the following questions: Did Atticus’s character and world-view truly change? Or did we overlook Atticus’s racist nature in “To Kill a Mockingbird?” Or are we overlooking his real identity in both novels?

After analyzing both novels, I believe that Atticus Finch, as described by Harper Lee, did not change significantly between those two novels. From my perspective, Atticus’s real face is a face of man who believes in justice, a justice that is universal and a justice that does not have a race. However, he still looks at the people based on their race and is not as color-blind as Jean Louise. In “Go Set a Watchman”, Atticus discusses that even though he is convinced that “white is white and black is black”, he is “still open to suggestion”, which illustrates that his view on race was based on the situation in south, which forced white people to be racists in order to fit into the society (Lee, 246). From my point of view, we, the viewers and readers, and Scout were presented with an idealized face of Atticus in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, prompting us to overlook his real identity. The acts of fairness that Atticus displayed in Jean’s childhood were mostly due to his admiration towards justice and were not promoted by his color blindness. On the other hand, the face of Atticus that is displayed in “Go Set a Watchman” is also inaccurate interpretation of his character. In this novel, Atticus is displayed as an evil person and is even compared to Hitler by his daughter. The fact that Atticus, who has never given “some hint” of his racist nature, who has never broken his word and who has never been “bad-tempered and impatient” towards his daughter, was not as ideal as we have always seen and admired him for being, was such a huge shock for us that we suddenly stopped empathizing and understanding him (Lee, 250). Because we could not see that ideal Atticus any more, we did not want to try to understand who Atticus really was and why he was acting in that particular fashion. We could not see that he was the same person as he was twenty years ago, with the same aspiration towards justice which uncle Jack reminds Jean of by saying “don’t you know who’d be the first to try and stop” the Klan if it starts bombing and beating people (Lee, 268). Since we cannot see the ideal Atticus that we were used to seeing, we are overlooking and over-exaggerating the values that he stands for. The reason behind the illusion of dramatic change is facing the real face, of a once ideal, flawless man, whom we always admired, and realizing that person whom we always looked up to is not as perfect and as impeccable as we always though him of. The reason behind the disappointment that Color BlindnessAtticus’s new face caused in millions of readers and Jean Louise as well, stemmed from looking at a man in two radically different ways – first as an ideal and honorable man and later as a racist and evil man, overlooking his real identity, the identity of man who believed in justice, but was also never color-blind.

Understanding the different ways we are presented with Atticus Finch in the novels “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman”, we can analyze what led to the limitation of understanding between Jean Louise and her father. The reason behind the lack of empathy that Scout experienced was that all the years she spent in New York led to the loss of identification between her, her father and city of Maycomb. The conversation with uncle Jack helped her to partially restore the connection, which made her more capable to empathizing with her father and led her to forgiving him.

Work Cited:

  • “A Time to Kill”. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Bros. 1996.
  • Lee, Harper. “Go Set a Watchman”. HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2015.

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Empathy, Internet and Social Media

Today, in the digital age, social media is a huge part of our everyday lives. There are tons of examples of people creating their careers using social media, however, there are some in which social media played significant role in ruining not only one’s careers but one’s lives as well. This phenomenon is regarded as public shame. One of the most renowned paradigms of public shame is the case of Paul Christoforo, where public shame provoked not only ruining Paul’s life and career, but also led to the end of a company. Paul was in charge of public relations in the company named “Ocean Marketing”, which was selling “N-Control Avenger” – controllers for gamers with disabilities. The fiasco started when Dave, a gamer with disabilities, emailed Paul about delay of his order on the controller, which lead to long and unpleasant for Dave email conversation between two. Most of the times, Paul was unprofessional and even rude.Email By Dave After Paul told him to put on his “big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else”, Dave started to get involve websites like Penny Arcade and others. Soon after, the conversation between the two went viral and it drew a lot of attention in social media. Due to bad reviews from the angry costumers, caused by Paul’s rudeness, the sales of Ocean Marketing decayed significantly, which eventually lead to the closing of the company. Paul was fired and had further problems getting work. He had to change his twitter account several times and eventually had to deactivate it. The example of Paul Christoforo prominently illustrates how public shame destroyed one’s career and life.

Empathy in digital age is becoming a popular subject now a days and there are more and more scholarly and non-scholarly articles dedicated to the topic. One I find the most interesting is Christopher Terry’s “The Emerging Issue of Digital Empathy”, which addresses the problem of empathy in digital age and displays reasons behind the lack thereof. According to the author, the personal thoughts and attitudes of the people expressed in digital media may be different from those expressed in real life (Terry). While there are cases where people display unusual acts of the kindness, most of the time people in social media tend to be more sarcastic, more critical and tend to use harsh language (Terry). Christopher Terry underlines factors that contribute to the nature of communication in internet and social media. According to the author, the main reasons behind the lack of empathy in digital communication are anonymity, asynchronicity and lack of face-to-face presence (Terry). Anonymity in social media permits people to possess an alternate identity, which frees them to express hostility and criticism. Due to asynchronicity, individuals in social media can avoid the backlash of online discussions as well as having to manage immediate reactions from the public. Lack of face-to-face presence allows people to avoid any kind of non-verbal
communication including eye contact and physical reaction, which plays a huge role in Social Media and Intenretreal world empathy. Therefore, according to the author “in essence, the subconscious psychological factors associated with the online disinhibition effect negatively impact the likelihood that empathy will be expressed in digital environments” (Terry).

Understanding the effects of the internet and social media on our inclination towards empathy, we can shed the light on both, Paul Christoforo’s and people’s whose hate led to getting Paul fired, actions. In Paul’s case, lack of empathy is due to lack of face-to-face presence and asynchronicity. Because he did not have to face the immediate irritation his rude emails rose in Dave, and because he could not have non-verbal communication that invokes empathy, Paul experienced lack of empathy towards Dave, which is a common practice in internet and social media communication. Similarly, people who expressed irritation using social media did not feel empathy towards Paul due to similar reasons. Since they did not have to face an immediate reaction from Paul and because there was a lack of face-to-face presence, they did not feel empathy towards him. Therefore, Paul Christoforo’s case is a paragon of how internet and social media affect empathy and community.

Works Cited:

Image Sources:

The Accurate Empathy: Limitations of Empathy in Adam Morton “Empathy for The Devil”

The article “Empathy for the Devil” by Adam Morton raises the question of why do we feel empathy toward ordinary actions, while being blind towards evil, atrocious, acts. According to the author, the limitation of empathy towards atrocious actions is caused by people being too sensitive, which makes it “harder to identify imaginatively with important parts of human possibility” (Morton 318). From the author’s perspective, we should identify accurate empathetic emotion among all empathetic feelings. According to the Morton, empathy is sharing affective tone and perspective and further underlines that “taking another’s point of view can result in understanding their actions better” (Morton 318). In the essay, Adam Morton focuses on a “why versus how” problem, which illustrates that lack of empathy towards perpetuators is due to lack of understanding of why a person did that particular act, out of all of the options, rather than just understanding why person did atrocity. According to the author, in order to understand the reason behind going in one direction rather than in the other, “we need a general intuitive sense of their barrier-overcoming profiles” (Morton 329). This is where empathy plays the role: in understanding the barrier and the ways we use to overcome them. He presents series of paradigms that illustrate various non-evil type of barriers
that, if connected to evil acts, allow empathy to bring some insight in atrocious actions. The author’s perspective on the question is that lack understanding of perpetuators barrier overcoming profile leads pseudo-empathy, an empathetic feeling that is not
accompanied by the understanding (Morton 327). Therefore, according to the author, in empathyorder to find the accurate empathetic emotion towards ones who did atrocious actions,
we need to rely on our understanding of their motives and perspective and rely on the real empathy, rather than pseudo-empathy.

After analyzing Adam Morton’s article “Empathy for the Devil”, I regard some of the arguments made by the author as inaccurate. The author states that lack understanding of perpetuator’s barrier overcoming profile leads to lack of understanding of how person did the atrocity, which leads to pseudo-empathy. Moreover, Morton states that in order to understand one’s actions better, we need take his or her point of view, therefore, empathy, according to the author, should be other-oriented. From my perspective, empathy’s effect on our understanding of other’s feelings is more influential when it is self-oriented. Self-oriented empathy is adjusting other person’s position to ourselves and applying our own background and feelings towards the situation, rather than taking that person’s perspective with their feelings and background as in other-oriented empathy. According to MJ Banissy’s article “Inter-Individual Differences in Empathy are Reflected in Human Brain Structure”, self-oriented empathy towards another person leads to “greater neural activity in the neural network” than other-oriented empathy and leads to greater replication of other’s neural activity (Banissy). Moreover, Philip L Jackson, states that “shared neural circuits between self and other prompt the observer to resonate with the emotional state of others” (Jackson, 6). Therefore, as revealed by MJ, self-oriented empathy leads to greater neural activity, which, according Philip, leads to understanding emotional state of others. Hence, in order to understand a perpetuator and thus empathize with atrocious act, we need to rely on self-oriented, rather than other-oriented empathy.

Understanding effects of self-oriented and other-oriented empathy, it is clear that Adam Morton’s argument about taking other’s perspective should be overlooked. According to the author, the reason behind the failure of people to empathize with atrocious acts is lack of understanding of how person did atrocity, which leads to pseudo-empathy. As displayed by MJ Banissy’s and Philip L Jackson’s articles, self-oriented, rather than other-oriented, empathy is the key to understanding and empathizing with ones who did evil, atrocious, actions. However, by disagreeing with Adam Morton’s understanding of effects of self-oriented and other-oriented empathy, I do not, in any means, contradict author’s overall argument about the topic: the reason behind lack of empathy towards atrocious acts is the lack of understanding of how, rather than why, evil actions are being done.

Works Cited:

  • Banissy, MJ. “Inter-Individual Differences in Empathy are Reflected in Human Brain Structure.” Neuroimage, vol. 62, no. 3, 2012. pp. 2034-2039.
  • Jackson, Philip L., Pierre Rainville, and Jean Decety. “To what Extent do we Share the Pain of Others? Insight from the Neural Bases of Pain Empathy.” Pain, vol. 125, no. 1, 2006. pp. 5-9.
  • Morton, Adam. “Empathy for the Devil.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press, 2011. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2012. Date Accessed 17 Oct. 2016. pp. 318-330.
  • Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-54. Print.

Image Sources:

Does empathy promote justice in A Time to Kill?

The movie “A Time to Kill” by Joel Schumacher addresses the question of how empathy promotes justice and how justice is coextensive with the law. On paper, empathy, justice and law are perfectly compatible with each other: empathy promotes justice, and the purpose of the law is to serve justice. However, in real life, these three can be less harmonic. There are cases when empathy promotes justice, but that justice is not what the law declares. The question is which justice is the one, true justice? The one that empathy promotes? Or is it the one that the law declares? This is the question which the movie tries to answer. After analyzing the movie, I believe that the true justice is the one promoted by empathy.

In the movie, Carl Lee Hailey, black father to his ten year old daughter Tonya, avenges the raping of his daughter, by killing two white men accused of the crime as they are walking into the courtroom. The lawyer of Carl Lee is Jake Brigance, a young, talented lawyer, who is empathetic towards black people and Carl Lee as a person. The defense enters the plea by reason of insanity. As Lucien Wilbanks, Jake’s mentor and old, trusted, friend, underlines “that is a strange case” because if proven insane, Carl Lee would have been declared innocent by the law and justice would have prevailed (TK). On the other hand, if proven to be sane, Carl Lee would have been declared guilty and would have been condemned to death. Therefore, justice, by the definition of the law, would also have prevailed. That’s where part of us, the viewers, start empathizing with Carl Lee and reach the antinomy of choosing between the justice defined by the law and justice promoted by empathy.

The first and one of the most important steps in deciding the guilt of Carl Lee Hailey is to decide whether he was legally insane or not during the time he murdered two boys. In the movie, the district attorney, Rufus Buckley, presents the state doctor that has examined the defendant as a witness. According to the doctor’s unpersuasive evidence, as revealed by Jake, Carl Lee was legally sane at the time of murder. On the other hand, according to the feeble, as revealed by Rufus, statement by the doctor presented by the defense, Carl Lee was legally insane at the time of the murder. However, we, the viewers, are presented with more trustworthy information by the movie, therefore, it is up to us to decide the fate of the defendant. From my perspective, the movies displays authentic evidence of Carl Lee’s sanity. In the movie, while he is visiting Officer Dwayne Looney, he openly admits being sane at the time he was shooting those boys – “It’s my fault. No matter what gets said in court. I knew what I was doing” (TK). Moreover, Carl Lee also admits regarding his decision as right and comforting in several occasions. When his family visits him in the jail, he openly admits that killing those two boys is the “the only thought that give me comfort” (TK). During the trail, Carl Lee, once more, accidently admits to viewing his decision as right when he confesses that the boys who raped his daughter, “deserved to die” and he hopes “they burn in hell” (TK). One more indicator that the defendant was being rational while committing the crime, is him going to his future lawyer’s, Jake’s house, the day before the crime, and confessing of regarding killing those boys as an only right decision. These facts displayed by the movie are authentic pieces of evidence of Carl Lee’s sanity during the time of committing the crime.

Once understanding the mental condition of Carl Lee Hailey, we can focus on deciding whether declaring him innocent was a just sentence. To begin with, we have to decide how justice and law are linked. From my point of view, justice is an entirely subjective concept and that’s why, from my perspective, the law is made. The law is the collection of “best”, safest, less risky and obtainable for most descriptions of justice. That being said, it is clear why sometimes the justice promoted by empathy and justice defined by the laws are different. The law encourages us to declare Carl Lee guilty, empathy promotes to proclaim him innocent, however, which one are we to trust? Law? Or empathy?

First of all, we have to decide how trustworthy we as spectators and jurors are, and how credible our empathy is. Martha Nussbaum, when describing empathy’s role in the law, uses Adam Smith’s description of the judicious spectator. The judicious spectator, by Adam Smith’s definition, is a perfect juror whose point of view on the case is entirely rational (Nussbaum 73). Moreover, judicious spectator is “first of all spectator. That is, he is not personally involved in the events he witnesses, although he cares about the participants as concerned friend” (Nussbaum 73). These descriptions of the perfect spectator and juror are very similar to our, the viewers, descriptions and positions in Carl Lee Hailey’s case. The movie depicts a dreadful scene of two young men raping and hanging ten years old Tonya, therefore, while watching it, we are becoming judicious spectators because we are only witnessing the crime and are not participating it. Moreover, we are not concerned about our safety or happiness when witnessing that atrocious scene, which makes us even better as judicious spectators, because a perfect juror, according to Smith, should not have “such emotions and thoughts as relate to his own personal safety and happiness” (Nussbaum 73). Moreover, our, the viewers, empathy towards Carl Lee Hailey is, from my perspective, rational, because we, as judicious spectators, have broader perspective on this case. If declared guilty, two boys, who raped Carl Lee’s daughter, could have been free in ten years. Adding to their “resume”, being already sentenced once before, as we learn from the conversation between deputy Dwayne Powell Looney and Jake, it is unlikely that the prison would have made them any less dangerous for society. On the other hand, Carl Lee Hailey, as described in the movie, is a caring father and family man. Even when he is “stuck in jail”, he tries and finds the way to raise some money for his family (TK). Moreover, Carl Lee, being a caring father, is exquisitely displayed in the scene when he comes back from the work after hearing the news about Tonya’s rape. He falls down on his knees and tells his daughter with sobbing voice that “it’s alright” as the tears start to show up on his face (TK). Furthermore, Carl Lee, as we know, does not have a criminal past and is respected by many in the town. Therefore, it is more than safe to assume that freeing him was rational and not a dangerous decision for society. This evidence from the movie give us, the viewers, jurors and judicious spectators,  a broader perspective on the case and encourages us to rely on our empathy.

Being convinced in the reliability of our empathy, we have to decide if the justice promoted by empathy in “A Time to Kill” is just. From my perspective, declaring Carl Lee Hailey innocent is a perfect paradigm of fairness and justice triumphing over the injustice. First of all, according to Martha Nussbaum’s and Adam Smith’s united description of the perfect juror, the empathy that the movie arises in us, the viewers, is the one, true empathy, an empathy that is to be trusted in making court decisions, the empathy that according to Martin L Hoffman played a huge role in Historical cases like Brown and Row v. Wade (Hoffman 253). Therefore, understanding the reliability of our, the viewers, empathy, more profoundly understanding the connection between justice and law and adding reason to the case of Carl Lee Hailey, it is clear that empathy in the film “A Time to Kill” promoted the true justice.


Works Cited:

“A Time to Kill”. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Warner Bros. 1996.

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.

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

Empathy in “A Time to Kill”

The movie “A Time to Kill” by Joel Schumacher is a masterpiece of moviemaking that evokes the feeling of empathy and justice towards African-American people. In the movie, Carl Lee Hailey, black father of his ten year old daughter Tonya, avenges the raping of her daughter, by killing two white men accused of the crime as they are walking into the courtroom. The lawyer of Carl Lee is Jake Brigance, a young, talented lawyer, is empathetic towards black people and Carl Lee as a person. While watching the movie, the viewer feels an overwhelming mix of emotions, with the most prominent emotion being empathy. The movie utilizes feelings of empathy in every possible way – by making one character invoke empathy in another character and by invoking empathy straight from the viewer.

The conversation between Carl Lee and Jake the night before final day of the trial is an exceptional paradigm of one character invoking empathy in another one. “It’s how you was raised. Nigger, negro, black, African-American, no matter how you see me, you see me different, you see me like that jury sees me, you are them” (TK). This excerpt from the movie by Carl Lee underlines the limitations of the society and tries to invoke the empathy towards black people in Jake. Carl Lee displays to his lawyer that no matter how hard he tries, he will always regard Carl as a black man and that is the reality that black people around the county lived in. In the conversation, Carl Lee asks for empathy from Jake by saying “Now if it was you on trial”, to make Jake feel what he feels and what he has to go through (TK). The empathy displayed in this part of the movie is real and not in any way apparent, as is the result: Jake delivers the exceptional closing speech and proves Carl Lee to be innocent.

One of the most memorable moments from the movie, when Carl Lee comes back to his home to see his daughter, invokes the empathy from even the most callous viewer. After getting the call to inform him about Tonya’s rape, Carl Lee comes back home and see his daughter sodomized, beaten and battered, falls on his knees and tells her “Come here, baby. Daddy’s here” (TK). This scene invokes the empathy, because it displays the pain that our family members have to overcome, when we are hurt, a feeling that is familiar to all of us. Moreover, the scene where Tonya apologizes to his father for dropping the groceries, arises the feeling of real empathy towards the black people and conditions they had to live in.

The final scene, where Jake Brigance delivers the closing argument, is a perfect example of one character invoking empathy in another character, and the scene, as a whole, invoking empathy in the viewer. In his closing argument, Jake makes every person sitting in the courtroom to close their eyes and follow his story, a story about a little girl. By telling the story as all of us were in there, when the crime occurred, he invokes empathy in the white jurors and all white people seating in the courtroom. “Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her?” (TK). These words invoke empathy not only in the people in the courtroom, but also make us, the people outside the story, the viewers, to feel empathy towards Carl Lee and his family, by displaying the whining eyes of the spectators, including mother of one of the young man accused of raping Tonya. Seeing the spectators whining eyes and hearing the story of terrible crime, makes all of us to feel empathetic towards Carl Lee and black people in general, for the harsh condition they had to live in and for injustice they had to overcome. Moreover, the empathy displayed in this episode is real and is the same empathy that played the huge role in historical cases like Brown and Row v. Wade.

A Time to Kill. Directed by Joel Schumacher.

Warner Bros. 1996.

Closing Argument By Defence

Dear members of the jury, to begin with, I would like to ask you to judge the case and the person accused, Tom Robinson, only by facts and evidences provided by both sides of the case. Considering the fact that you are the ones that draw final decision and you are the ones that decide the fate of this young man, I would like to ask you to look at the case from a perspective that is uncommon for our society, a perspective which has been refuted by generations, a perspective that all of us are born equal. However, understanding the barriers and barricades that we have built in our society, it is in my understanding that just asking to be objective might not be enough.

That said, I would like to start the closing argument by underlining the facts that not only question the credibility of the other side, but have also been refuted by the defendant. The evidence, provided by sheriff Heck Tate, displays that Miss Mayella Ewell has been beaten up by a left-handed person. However, Tom’s left hand is no use for him. Moreover, taking into consideration the fact that Bob Ewell, Mayella’s alcoholic father, is left-handed, it is highly unlikely for any reasonable person to question the guilt of the person accused of this crime. The fact that this case is happening, undermines the basic principles of justice. Therefore, I would like you to look into the depths of your hearts, a part which has been concealed by the stereotypes of our society, a part which we sometimes forget that exists, but a part that is an integral piece of us – empathy. I want you not only to understand the feelings of Tom Robinson and his family, but also to feel the pain that they have to suffer. This man has been separated from his family simply because of the fact that he felt sorry for Mayella Ewell. We are still standing here not because of the fact that evidence might illustrate that this person is guilty, but because of the fact that Tom Robinson is a young, black man who simply felt sorry for the white lady! I would like you to understand and feel all of the humiliation and disgrace Tom Robinson has to overcome because of the improbable testimony of two white witnesses. I would like you to look at Tom as your own individual brother, cousin, friend or child and decide for yourself: is Tom Robinson guilty of the terrible crime that he is accused of?

As my final words, I would like to remind you to do what you came here to do, to do your jobs as jurors, to do your duties and to do your privileges – serve the justice, the justice that has no race, a justice that is based on facts and evidences. Therefore, after reviewing the testimony of Tom’s innocence, I am confident that you, gentlemen, will come to a decision “to restore this man to the family” and find this man not guilty for the crime he simply did not commit (TKM).

Thank you for your attention.

To Kill a Mockingbird. Directed by Robert Mulligan.

Universal Pictures. 1962.

Blog Assignment 1: Summarizing and Defining Key Words

The essay “Empathy, Justice, and law” by Martin Hoffman addresses the question of whether empathy plays the role in law-making and the way the laws are applied. The author’s perspective is that empathy does play a huge role in making and changing the laws, but pure empathy is not enough. In the essay Professor Hoffman displays several historical cases and examples where empathy played key role in changing law. One of the most renowned cases was the Brown case in which court declared that the school segregations were unconstitutional. Empathy played enormous role in judges’ decision to strike down separate-but-equal law. The person who argued for equal rights for colored children, Thurgood Marshall, managed to display how school segregations were destroying black children’s self-respect. He also brought in a famous study that displayed how segregations caused black children to feel humiliated. Marshall’s efforts made the judges empathize and to take the perspective of colored children and made them understand all of the “road blocks” that they had to overcome (Hoffman 246). Another brilliant example of empathy’s role in changing the law was the Row v. Wade case which legalized abortion for women. In this case, judges had to empathize with poor women, who might have suffered economically as a result of the law. Moreover, the law limited women’s right to be free and to fully enjoy the powers of their bodies and minds. Professor Hoffman uses examples of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Yale Kamisar to display how empathy helped in one case to make huge steps towards the abolition of slavery and in second case in giving accused to be silent and have a lawyer. In the essay author also talks about the limitations of the empathy and displays examples where empathy played a negative role in making justice. One of the examples is nanny’s case where nanny accused of second degree murder escaped the justice because people started empathizing with her. The author believes that empathy is relevant and appropriate for the law, but at the same time is vulnerable to bias.


One of the key terms that Martin Hoffman uses in the essay is empathy. “To summarize and highlight empathy’s role, the Court’s decision clearly takes the perspective of segregated children, their feelings about themselves, and is sensitive to their pain” (Hoffman 247). This quote display’s Huffman’s definition of the term empathy as an emotional state that makes us feel about other people’s feelings and emotional state as our own. The author explains the word empathy may be ambiguous and is broadly defined as cognitive and affective empathy (Hoffman 230). The author, however, focuses on the affective type of empathy because from his perspective it is the moving mechanism in making justice and law. Professor Hoffman refers to the term as a motivator to some great achievements of humanity including Germans saving Jews from Nazis and American Civil War activists (231). From the author’s perspective, if it wasn’t for the people’s ability to empathize, to put themselves into other’s position, to understand other people’s situations and to feel what they felt, none of those great achievements would have been possible. For Hoffman, empathy’s real power is displayed when people are not only aware of other people’s feelings, but when they really feel other people’s distress. It is only by using Hoffman’s definition of the term empathy that society achieved success in cases such as Browns and Row v. Wade, where empathy made judges feel the struggles of the colored children and poor women. In these cases, empathy was determinative in changing the laws and striking down injustices like school segregations and the prohibition for women to do abortion. Finally, the author refers to the empathy as a “pro-social motive” and further explains that empathy’s relevance to the law is due to the fact the law’s purpose is to serve justice (Hoffman 253-4). Therefore empathy, by Professor Hoffman’s definition, is significant for the law “when linked to legal principles, especially pro social legal principles like citizens’ Constitutional right” (253-54).


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.