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Empathy and emotional sharing
vendredi 16 janvier 2015

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Conférence Dan Zahavi dans le cadre du Séminaire « Emotions et volitions » coordonné par Natalie Depraz et Maria Gyemant.

According to a currently influential view, supported by both philosophical arguments and empirical evidence, the capacity to adopt a we-perspective is a crucial prerequisite for the creation and maintenance of social norms, conventions, and institutional facts. Despite the last 15-20 years of intense research and theorizing, several issues continue to remain controversial, however.
1) How precisely should one understand the very notion of we? Does the we-perspective transcend the mind of the single individual, is it something that can only be ascribed to a collective, or is it after all merely a special form of individual intentionality?
2)What are the prerequisites for a we-perspective? To what extent does it presuppose and build upon self-consciousness, second-person perspective taking and empathy?
In my talk I will discuss a recent proposal by David Carr according to which the we is the label for a distinct way of being with others,a distinct form of social existence. As Carr stresses, experience can be social not only in the sense that it can take other subjects as its intentional objects, but also in the sense that it can enlist the individual into a We-subject, by making it a member of a community of experiencers. The we is consequently and very importantly not some entity that is observed from without, but rather something I experience from within in virtue of my membership and participation. On such a proposal, adopting the we-perspective is most definitely not to leave the first-person perspective behind; it is merely to take up the plural rather than the singular first-person perspective.
I am very sympathetic to Carrʼs proposal, but I think there is an important question that remains rather underdetermined and unaddressed not only by Carr, but also by a number of other we-theorists, and this concerns the question regarding the cognitive and affective presuppositions for we -intentionality. To make headway, I will turn to a number of phenomena discussed by Scheler. I think his analysis of the distinction between emotional contagion, empathy and emotional sharing can be quite illuminating not only when it comes to an understanding of the socio-affective/cognitive presuppositions for we-intentionality, butalso allow for a better graspof what precisely a we-perspective is.

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Dan Zahavi
Université de Copenhague
Professeur de philosophie

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Dan Zahavi est professeur de philosophie à l'Université de Copenhague.

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Dernière mise à jour : 26/02/2015