Eidetics of Empathy: Intersubjectivity, Embodiment and Qualitative Ontology – Rediscovering Edith Stein’s Account of Empathy
I focus on empathy from an eidetic perspective, that provided by Edith Stein in her work On the Problem of Empathy (1917) and which I call eidetics of empathy. I suggest that the eidetics of empathy allows us to inquire efficaciously into the structure of empathy, and therefore into the relation between empathy on the one hand, and embodied personal identity and intersubjectivity on the other. I argue that the eidetics of empathy sheds light on the complexity, heterogeneity and also fragility of the acts of empathy that we perform in our everyday life with respect to others, and provides us with the conceptual tools to address crucial questions such as: What is the specific and distinctive structure of empathy? What are the conditions of possibility of the performance of acts of empathy? Are there different fulfilment degrees of empathy? What role do living bodies play in the performance of acts of empathy? How is it possible to prevent and correct mistakes of empathy? I deal with these issues in making three points on the eidetics of empathy. My first point is that the eidetics of empathy allows us to understand empathy as one type of acts of perceiving others and their experiences directly and as a whole that is subject to variations of its parts – the limits of possible co-variations of its parts correspond to the essential structure of empathy. Secondly, I focus on the eidetic issue of the possible co-variations of parts of the empathy-type: the content and the degree of fulfilment and accomplishment of empathy acts, the layer of the person they address, the varieties of living beings with whom we can empathize. Thirdly, I argue that the eidetics of empathy exemplifies very well the ontologically qualitative issue of degrees of existence of any entity in relation to its eidetic paradigm, and it is a prime example of how phenomenological eidetics can be a qualitative ontology dealing with qualitative issues that are crucial in our everyday life.
Copyright (c) 2019 Francesca De Vecchi
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