Resonance or Cognition? Two Concepts of Sympathy
Every theory of sympathy or compassion must fulfil two claims: first, it must take into account the fact that the person who sympathises with someone else can distinguish between her or his own emotions and those of the other person. Second, any theory of sympathy must describe how it is possible to feel an emotion just like another person. And this involves more than recognising or perceiving what kind of emotion the other person may or may not have. These claims correspond with two possible extreme positions. The first is that sympathy is the same as empathy: one person is affected by the same feeling, or feels the same emotion as another (this is the theory of identification, or, in its more extreme form, the theory of contagion). The second position is that sympathy involves thinking by analogy, imagining what kind of emotion the other person has, or might be having, by using well known patterns of emotions, i.e. asking oneself what emotion could be the response to the situation in which the other person finds her- or himself. The talk will discuss these different concepts by analysing the critical case of music that presents emotions or moods. How is it possible, for example, to sympathise not only with fictional figures but also with emotions that are presented or performed by music? I will refer to Susanne Langer´s theory of symbolic transformation, to David Hume´s concept of moral sense and to the phenomenological analysis of sympathy.
Hilge Landweer, born in 1956, is a Professor of Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin and an associate at Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Historische Anthropologie. She studied in Kiel and Bielefeld, where she earned her doctorate in 1989. She was co-editor of the journal “Feministische Studien” from 1991 to 2002. Her main research fields are practical philosophy (ethics and social philosophy), historical anthropology and phenomenology.
Selected publications: Das Märtyrerinnenmodell: Zur diskursiven Erzeugung weiblicher Identität, Pfaffenweiler 1990; with Mechthild Rumpf: Kritik der Kategorie “Geschlecht”, Deutscher Studienverlag Weinheim 1993; with Manfred Bauschulte and Volkhard Krech: Wege – Bilder – Spiele, Bielefeld 1999; Scham und Macht: Phänomenologische Untersuchung zur Sozialität eines Gefühls, Tübingen 1999; with Christoph Demmerling: Philosophie der Gefühle. Von Achtung bis Zorn, Stuttgart 2005.