The ability to imagine

Reason is ultimately guided by context.  … To be un-empathetic is to be unable to transpose oneself into an unfamiliar context, and ultimately, develop blind spots (which, even worse, one does not even know they have). The fundamental misunderstanding, I believe, is the confusion between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is about emotion- feeling sorry for someone who has cancer, for instance. Empathy is about the ability to imagine what it might be like to have lung cancer, and what effect such a state would have on that person’s outlook on the world. The former is lacking in the world, and may or may not have a place in the judicial system. However, the latter is vital and essential to a judicial system that is able to recognize the entirety of the society of which its decisions touch.

—Max Falkoff
in comments on “The Unsung Empathy of Justice Stevens” at Slate