Empathy & Kant by Lou Agosta

The “communicability of feelings” (1790/93a: 174; §40 (AA 294)) sounds like step one of the multi-dimensional approach to empathy. It sounds like a rumor of empathy. It sounds like step one of an empathic communication that, with further cognitive processing, results in empathic relatedness between individuals. Kant’s “communicability of feeling” is the clue to the reconstruction of the deep history of empathy in Kant.

The approach is reconstruction, albeit one motivated by the Kantian texts and the definition of empathy as a unified multi-dimensional process.

However, this deep history of empathy is not only about how Kant anticipates the modern definition of empathy. Equally important is the realization that the modern engagement with empathy must live up to Kant’s requirements.

These include:

(1) an understanding of empathy enriched by the infusion of distinctions from Kant’s aesthetic philosophy, whose incomparable humanity maps to the multi-dimensional structure of empathy;

(2) an understanding of Kant as enriched by the inclusion of distinctions from empathy, whose inquiry humanizes in a way that maps to the structure of Kant’s philosophy; and

(3) the intersection and encounter of empathy with the Kantian project of humanity as innovative in its demand to humanize community and communalize humanity.