Challenges and Opportunities in the Interdisciplinary Study of Empathy

Michael Frazer

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


There is a growing sense that the current structure of disciplinary divisions in the academy is both arbitrary and unduly constraining. Interdisciplinarity is the watchword of the day, but most scholars are so utterly socialized into their segregated disciplines that it is often unclear how interdisciplinary research can proceed. I think that the long-dead authors I wrote about in my book, The Enlightenment of Sympathy, can provide us with a path forward. These eighteenth-century sentimentalists were united in a common project synthesizing all of what are now the humanities and social sciences to both understand and improve human nature via the human faculty that we now call empathy. This project that could serve as an inspiration to analogous work in the twenty-first century. But such interdisciplinary work on empathy faces serious challenges. This paper focuses on four of them, which I call:

1. The Challenge of Terminology
2. The Challenge of Methodology
3. The Challenge of Normativity
4. The Challenge of Neutrality

Each of these challenges is also an opportunity, a chance to shake up how humanistic and social-scientific research is usually conducted and change things for the better.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2018
EventVideo Teleconference on Empathy and Emotions in Morality, Communication and Human Life - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York, United States
Duration: 6 Sep 20186 Sep 2018


ConferenceVideo Teleconference on Empathy and Emotions in Morality, Communication and Human Life
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityTroy, New York
Internet address

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