1 Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, Faculty of Humanities, Københavns Universitet2 Aarhus University3 Department of Media, Cognition and Communication, Faculty of Humanities, Københavns Universitet
A Critical Discussion of De Vignemont and Jacob’s Theory of the Neural Substrate of Pain Empathy
There is currently a great deal of debate in philosophy and cognitive neuroscience about how best to conceptualize empathy, with much of the controversy centering on the issue of how to articulate the common intuition that empathy involves the sharing of emotional experiences. In a recent paper in Philosophy of Science, De Vignemont and Jacob (2012) defend the view that empathy involves interpersonal similarity between an empathizer and a target person with respect to their internal affective states. To support this, they home in on a specific type of empathy, namely empathy for pain, and propose a theory of the neural substrate of pain empathy. We point out several flaws in their interpretation of the data, and argue that currently available data does not differentiate between De Vignemont and Jacob’s model of empathy and alternative models. Finally, we offer some suggestions about how this might be achieved in future research.
Philosophy of Science, 2014, Vol 81, Issue 1, p. 154-160