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.
In the article Empathy, Justice, and Law by Martin L. Hoffman, the author mainly targets in solving the problem how should empathy affect the law. His answer is that empathy is a “pro-social moral motive” which brings humanity into dispassionate reasoning and fills the absent of spirit in the law but has some “inherent biases that may limit its value in legal contexts”.(230) He proves this point by firstly analyzing his empathy theory, then giving real examples of empathy contributing to the law. He defines the type of empathy he focuses on, which is affective empathy, as the ability to feel what the other feels in his or her scenario. Then he analyses the motivating power empathy has. He states that people feel distress when seeing victims in distress, and feel better when they helped those victims to alleviate the pain.(231) Therefore proves that empathy has the power of a pro-social motive. He then explains this by giving five modes of empathetic arousal which are mimicry, conditioning, direct association, verbally mediated association and perspective talking. These five modes act collectively and automatically to make one to respond to others’ misfortune. The author then points out the development of empathy. The mid-childhood children start to have “veridical empathy”, the sense of one’s body as an individual exists independently and they become aware that others have feelings. The 7-10 years olds start to develop “empathetic distress over another’s life condition”, the empathetic feeling towards other people’s life. Then children start to form “empathy for distressed groups”, the empathy towards certain groups of people that emerges after they start forming social concepts. (235)Then the empathy of this kind may evolve into a point called “witnessing”, “the experience of shock, numbness, and ‘being changed forever’” when seeing the image of some group of people suffering.(Hoffman 236) Witnessing is the emotion that is similar to empathetic distress but “becomes so intense and penetrates so deeply into one’s motive system that it changes one’s behavior beyond the immediate situation.” (Hoffman 236)This kind of emotion empowers people to dedicate themselves to eliminate the suffering of those victims. He gives three exemplars of Susan Sontag’s exposure to Holocaust pictures, Craig Kielburger’s experience with the story of a Pakistani boy who fought against child labor, and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s empathy towards slaves and composition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Therefore, the author proves that “in any case, empathy with victim groups and witnessing can be crucial links between empathy and law.”(237) The author then provides several examples of empathy’s contribution to law, individuals whose empathy helped change laws, and empathy in US Supreme Court decisions. Aside from the positive power empathy has in the law, the author also mentions the empathy’s limitations, which are the vulnerability in the decision making process when one is influenced by the relationship with the victim, the attention shifting of bystanders due to the overly intense distress, the “in-group bias”, and the “here-and-now bias”. Thus comes to a conclusion that “empathy becomes relevant and appropriate to law when linked to legal principles, especially pro-social legal principles “.(Hoffman 253-254)
Throughout the passage, the author uses the term “empathetic bias” many times as in the sentence “I mentioned two types of empathetic bias: in-group or familiarity bias and here-and-now or salience bias.” (251)The empathetic bias is the term author uses to describe empathy’s limitation. It happens when there are many victims and one must choose whom to help, and when one victim is absent and the other is present. People tend to make inaccurate decisions during these circumstances. This term is important because it perfectly describes the human’s vulnerable nature that needs to be overcomed in order to make legal judgment. According to the author, the jury members will encounter dilemma when both victim and perpetrator are giving traumatic stories, and the only way to settle the case is to link legal concepts to it.
Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. edited by Amy Coplan, Peter Goldie. Oxford University Press, 2011, 230-254
In his article “Empathy,Justice and the Law”, Martin Hoffman further contributes to the conversation on the role of empathy in legal decisions. Hoffman attempts answer the question of what extent empathy should be used when making decisions in court. His stance on this issue is that empathy is a necessary component for hearing out cases, but it must be in moderation and the person who empathizes must be aware of their feelings of empathy. Hoffman supports this viewpoint with several historical examples in addition to an scientific explanation of human processes (234). Given that the general public sees empathy as having a negative role in court cases, Hoffman brings up some examples of when empathy helped the court to ultimately make a major decision. He talks of cases involving slavery and police interrogation, which are both major changes in American History that may have gone differently without the role of empathy (Hoffman 245). Even while Hoffman has proven the importance of empathy, he still must show that it is realistic for judges to understand their feelings of empathy so it can properly be dealt with. Hoffman explains the in depth stages of empathic development in people and ultimately comes to the conclusion that adults (judges) have the full capability to acknowledge their own feelings of empathy, which he argues is necessary in this process (234). With a solid argument for the importance of empathy, Hoffman uses some counter examples to show the necessity of balance. Hoffman does not argue that empathy is always key and must be present, so he explains that feelings of empathy can be limited by relationships between people along with several other limitations. Through his balance of concrete examples,explanation and counterpoints, Martin Hoffman is able to thoroughly support his thesis on empathy in the courts.
One very important term that is used in Hoffman’s essay is “bias”.This term is used often, but one example is on page 251 where the new section is entitled,”Empathic bias in the courtroom”. While this is a widely known term, it takes a particularly important role and meaning in this essay. This is something that does not support Hoffman’s argument, though it is still integral to it. Hoffman would bias as being something that sways a judgment/decision in a way that is no longer natural,sound or fair. Hoffman mentions that having empathy can often lead to a bias in legal proceedings and this is something that cannot occur. Fairness is one of the most ultimate and important aspects of the courts. The major importance in discussing bias is the fact that it is something that will always be lurking which means that there needs to be caution with empathy. There can be empathy but people need to be aware so that when rulings become swayed or unfair, action must be taken. It is ideal that procedures are taken so that the bias never arises.
Hoffman,Martin L. “Empathy, Justice and the Law”.Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. By Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. New York: Oxford Scholarship, 2012.
The term that I want to point out from Hoffman’s article is “familiarity bias”. The concept “familiarity bias” was used by Hoffman in the section “14.5.1 Empathy’s limitations” to illustrate the vulnerable parts for empathy in decision making process. “Familiarity bias” demonstrates that people will tend to feel more eager to help a distressed person if the victim shared very close relationship with them. And this bias can greatly influence people’s decisions when they have to make selection like whether to donate money to a strange girl suffered from illness or donate money to their own niece that suffered from illness. And when different cultures gather together, people are more likely to help and protect their own cultural brothers and sisters than help people from different cultures. Hoffman makes this concept to point out that though empathy plays its important role in decision making process ,it still has drawbacks, and this is one of them. The reason I think this concept largely contributes the article is that Hoffman actually makes a concession when raise this concept and draw the conclusion that empathy dose play a very important role, but understanding the both sides of it thoroughly would make it even better and helpful in decision making. The raise of this concept helps Hoffman make a more thoughtful and thorough statement about empathy and decision making.
In the passage Empathy, Justice, and the Law, the author Martin L. Hoffman mainly addresses one question: how empathy can be related to the law. He claims that despite some limitations, in general sense, empathy is attributed to a pro-social motive and thus can be very useful in initiating and changing laws. To illustrate his point, he first gave a definition of empathy and how it can motivate people to help others. Then he identified five modes of empathy: mimicry, conditioning, direct association, (above three are pre-verbal and automatic ones),and verbal-mediated association, perspective taking,(these two are higher-cognitive modes).Perspective taking can also be divided into three types, self-focused, other-focused, and combined self-other focused. According to Hoffman, the third type is extremely important for empathy’s contribution to laws because it benefits from both the emotional intensity of self-focused and the sustained attention to victims of other-focused. After that, Hoffman talked about the different developmental stages of empathy. Begin with the toddlerhood at around 2 years-old when child developed sense of sympathy other than just empathic distress. As age goes up a little, they become able to empathize not only the simples but more subtle feelings which Hoffman called the veridical empathy .When child reaches 7-10 years-old, and begins to have a better understanding of separate individuals, they start to form empathy distress over another’s life condition, not only over a specific event. Eventually, after they get to know social concept and classifying people, they can comprehend and developed empathy distress towards a certain group of people. Sometimes, this final stage can be so strong that it progress to what Hoffman called “witnessing”, which means the empathy distress become so strong that even become life-changing, one devoted oneself into helping certain groups of people over a long period of time at great personal cost, instead of immediate action. Hoffman gives a few examples of witnessing like Kielburger who found Free the Children because of strong empathy distress caused by a child-labor photo. He then listed several feelings that empathy distress can transform to, including compassion, guilty, anger, and injustice. He specifically points out Empathy over injustice is important because it combines nature triggered empathy and sense of justice which can be applied to making and changing laws. In following paragraphs, in order to emphasize his general points, Hoffman gave some detailed examples of people whose empathy helped change laws, Harriet Beecher Stowe and the abolition of slavery, Yale Kamisar and the accused of right to be silent and have a lawyer. He then showed us that in some Supreme Court cases such as school desegregation and legalizing abortion, empathy also plays a very important role, directly or indirectly. At last, he also acknowledge limitations on empathy such as: in-group-familiarity bias, here-there bias and victim-impact bias, in those cases empathy may lead to a wrong direction where the guilty one may gains sympathy and the victim get blamed.
Hoffman concluded and pointed out his view that empathy is generally a pro-social behavior and can have an impact in law-making, but we have to keep in mind those limitations, using our logical thoughts and reasons instead of fully relying on it.
In this passage, Hoffman used the word ‘witnessing’ in a specific way that’s different from what we normally used it. As he said ‘Empathy for a distressed group may progress to a point that Kaplan and Laub called ‘witnessing’ ’. By the word witnessing, Hoffman means that the empathic distress aroused when someone sees a certain group of people suffering progress to an extent that it provides strong motivation for one to devote oneself into helping those people beyond the situation and last a long time. Hoffman specifically and frequently used this term in this passage because it is the ultimate stage of empathy development which is very different from those lower stages as sympathy and empathy over one’s life time. The ‘witnessing’ effect is actually the most important pro-social attribute of empathy because it benefits the society in a real sense. Hoffman used this word in a memorable and unconditional way combined with related examples to emphasize his point that empathy can be used to make and change laws.
In the essay written by Hoffman “Empathy, Justice and Law”, the author posts an important question: Should we permit empathy to exist in courts, cases and even laws? Some people say that empathy should never effect the law because it is shallow and poor logical that may cause injustice and sightless action which result in negative effects. Others say that empathy is positive and should be concerned with laws since it provides motivation, justice and public concern. From the passage, we can easily find out that the author’s response to this question is “Yes, but only empathy is not enough”(254). Hoffman divided his process into a plurality of steps, which are the definition of empathy, how empathy contribute to the law and some negative sides of empathy(230).
At the beginning, Hoffman gives us the definition of empathy: a meta-cognitive dimension of emotion which has all attribute of pro-social motive and can act as a motive of helping others. He also claims that motion such as witnessing can arouse “empathic distress”, which makes people to “feels what other feels or maybe normally be expected to feel in his or her situation”, and becomes a feeling of injustice as well as a desire of helping unfortunates. Hoffman also claims that empathy develops in our whole life time. The author firstly helps us define the empathy(232-236).
Hoffman then argues that empathy actually contributes to law a lot. He firstly states that public always believe “one should get what one deserves” and “one’s right as a citizen should be respected”. Under this circumstance, people, impelled by empathy, would have a feeling of injustice and anger, which motivates them to seek justice for others. Hoffman provides of Harriet, Frank and Yale Kamisar’s experiences to illustrate his viewpoint(237-239, 244-245).
Hoffman then discusses the impact of “empathic justice” in U.S. Supreme Court Decisions by providing several successful examples such as Brown students’ “school desegregation” in the late 19th century and abortion legalizing. These two examples successfully proof that empathy does have positive effects on laws and sometimes can even change the world into a better place(245-250).
Finally, Hoffman points out that empathy also has some limitations and negative attributes. “Though clearly a pro-social motive, empathy is limited by its fragility, dependence on the salience and intensity of distress cues, and susceptibility”. From the examples of “British nanny” and “Victim-impact statements”, the author claims that empathy can sometimes be non-logical, easy-changing or even misleading, and he says that only empathy is obviously not enough for laws and courts. As a result, we should “keep empathic bias in mind and give consideration in any legal context that might involve empathy”(250-253).
At the end of the passage, Hoffman mainly discusses the term “empathic bias” and its negative influence on the justice. To define the term “empathic bias”, we can easily find that, from the passage, Hoffman defines it as “misleading” “the fragility part of empathy” and “damaging the courtroom”(254). In the passage, Hoffman gives us several examples of “empathy bias”, such as family bias, victim-impact bias, here-and-now bias, and so on. Hoffman mentioned that only takes empathy to court is far away from enough, one should also be logical, knowledgeable and objective. Hoffman says that we should try our best to avoid “empathy bias” and make right choices(254).
Martin L. Hoffman. “Empathy, Justice and Law”. Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. 2014. 213-254
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.
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
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.
In the article “Empathy, Justice and the Law”, Martin L. Hoffman mainly illustrates different aspects of empathy, which have positive and negative impacts of law-making and changing. Initially, the author mentions three types of empathy: “affective, cognitive, co-occurrence” and three stages of developing empathy: “vendical empathy, empathic distress over other’s life and empathy for distress groups.”(Hoffman 234-235)When co-occurrence feeling and empathy for distressed group combine together, the “witnessing”occurs. It can not only produce a temporary eager to relief victim’s pain but generate larger attentions of radically changing the distressed situation. Furthermore, after listing four transformations of empathy, the author asserts that the guardian of justice spurs plenty of individuals to change the laws in a humanistic and altruistic way. Beneficial and pro-social actions are exemplified by Harriet Beecher Stowe, who gives society intense understand of slavery in his best-selling book and encourages an increasing number of leaders and politicians to notice the unseen and detrimental effect of slavery. Another positive empathy example contended by Hoffman happens in U.S Supreme Court. Henderson becomes a narrative of self-hated children to oppose school desegregation and separate-but-equal doctrine. Although there are certain people against the proposal, the Court eventually made empathy take over injustice. As for another profound law change, legalizing abortion, the court finally takes the perspective of women and actually gives women rights to choose as men. However, empathy sometimes have negative influence in Court room because of the fickle nature, inevitable bias and limitations of empathy. For instance, the jurors use emotion rather than rational thinking and usually emphasize more to people who they can identify with. In general, different aspects of empathy have opposite reflections to the law-making and changing. In order to avoid the bias of empathy, the author believes the cognitive and educational thinking can make empathy in good use.
From my perspective, I think the word “co-occurrence” in the 14.1.3 modes of empathic arousal is important to the law.(Hoffman 233) Co-occurrence combines self-focused affective empathy which means the recall of self-experience could make people have the same feelings with distressed victim, and other-focused cognitive empathy which means taking victim’s perspective instead of concentrating on their own painful past. The reason why I think it is significant is that empathy’s narrow-minded limitations and inevitable bias could sometimes counteract the benefits of empathy if we don’t have co-occurrence empathy. Like the author mentions in his article that jurors emphasize more on certain groups and families because they have a sense of identity coming up with empathy simultaneously. Thus, emotional reflections play an enormous role in their final decision-making. In that way, we need to have more attention on victims themselves and think in a broader way. We need to empathize more on the potential victims and become “witnessing” as Susan and Henderson. Generally, co-occurrence perspective- taking includes both rational and emotional meditation, which can enlarge the range of and extend period of empathy. Moreover, “co-occurrence” gives us a great opportunity to convince others and prevent from vulnerable empathy. In the condition of making law, co-occurrence lets both humanity and logic participate in and then creates the social and emotional climates.
Hoffman, Martin L. “Empathy, Justice, and the Law.” Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Ed. Amy Coplan and Peter Goldie. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 2011. 230-244.