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

Advertisements