From Defining Empathy to Mapping Empathy
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Empathy has gained a lot of attention over the last decades in philosophical, psychological, neuroscientific, and medical research and this interest is constantly growing. However, the research is overshadowed by a long ongoing debate over what empathy is and an agreement does not seem forthcoming. The dissertation is a careful analysis of possible options for overcoming the terminological issues with an emphasis on a critical assessment of a solution provided by Amy Coplan. This solution is to avoid conflation and confusion of phenomena that have important differences, by defining empathy narrowly. The dissertation is a criticism of Coplan’s approach and a defence of the view that there is a plurality of kinds of empathy. I argue that the best way forward for empathy research is to create a systematised taxonomy of kinds of empathy and empathetic processes and that the best tool for this purpose is a map that presents the kinds of empathy and their interrelations. I have called this tool an empathy map. The thesis includes a preliminary empathy map and illustrative examples of how the map could take shape, lead to progress in empathy research and provide better understanding of the relevance of different types of empathy in diagnosing mental disorders and in everyday social relations.