CARE - Conference on Animal Rights Europe, 2-5 November 2017 in Vienna

Detailed information

From Empathy to Ideology English talk by Tobias Rein (Germany)

Laura Vicuña: Seminar room, first floor

From Empathy to (a Critique of) Ideology

Empathy does not have a good stand in the western tradition of philosophy. As for ethics, empathy was and is accused of being unreliable, irrational, unevenly spread – in short: to be too instable to build a moral foundation on it. On the other hand, a new thinking of especially feminist thinkers and the backing of anthropologists and evolutionary biologists shifted the focus from (male based) rational thinking to our human conditions and our daily relations.

In my presentation, I want to make the point for empathy as strong as possible. I want to show that empathy has as good an ethical foundation as any other ethical approach, if not even the most plausible one. The common prejudices towards empathy rest on false assumptions and misunderstandings.

In a second step, I want to consider the social conditions in which empathy is bedded. We live in a capitalistic society and the main principles of capitalism hinder the development of empathy. In a world of competition and profitmaking, where individuality is defined as the absence of others rather than the outcome of solidarity, empathy does have a bad stand. A special role thereby plays the concept of ideology. Ideology is the system of belief incorporated into the institutions and structures of our society. So, there is a clash between the claim of empathy and the material and ideal conditions of society. In my presentation, I want to confront empathy with a critique of social structures and vice versa in the sense of (critical) social theory.

Additional material

Presentation slides as a PDF file

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