Saturday, December 7, 2019

Samuel Fleischacker

Samuel Fleischacker is LAS Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His new book is Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy.

From Fleischacker's Q&A at the University of Chicago Press blog:

Your book uses the philosophy of Adam Smith to explore the nature and value of empathy. To start us off, can you give us a quick introduction to Smithian empathy?

Smithian empathy is the kind of shared feeling that arises when I imagine myself into your situation. David Hume had understood empathy (what he and Smith called “sympathy”—the word “empathy” wasn’t invented until after their time) as my feeling whatever you feel. Smith understands it as my feeling what I think I would feel if I were you, in your situation. Hume’s empathy is a kind of contagious feeling—I “catch” your feelings, whether of sadness or of joy, whether I want to do that or not. Smith’s empathy requires more action on our part and depends on imagination. I try to show that Smith’s kind of empathy is deeper and more important to morality.

What drew you to Adam Smith, and to the topic of empathy in particular?

Smith is extremely famous, but I think Smith is vastly different from the popular image of Smith—the supposed champion of selfishness, who defended a ruthless capitalism—and indeed is someone who can help us work against the selfishness that is rampant in our modern world. I also think he is a thoughtful, nuanced theorist of empathy who avoids...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: Divine Teaching and the Way of the World.

--Marshal Zeringue