The Self-Other Distinction in Empathy

  • Heidi Lene Maibom University of Cincinnati & the University of the Basque Country


An empathic emotion is supposed to be an emotion of the same type as the one the target experiences, but also be one in which there is a sharp self-other distinction. I show that these two desiderata are difficult to satisfy at the same time. Instead, what makes an emotion empathic is nothing intrinsic to that emotion. Instead, it is the person’s attitude towards what they are feeling that matters, I suggest. A person’s attitude towards other people – namely whether they care about their welfare – determines not only how likely they are to catch the emotions the other person is experiencing, but also how likely they are to empathize with them.

Keywords: Empathy, Empathic Person, Distress, Self-Other Distinction, Sympathy


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Come citare
MaibomH. L. (2022). The Self-Other Distinction in Empathy. Bollettino Filosofico, 37, 117-128.