WorkshopPublikationsdatum 10.08.2018

Attention, Compassion, and Empathy in Ethics

Thursday 13 and Friday 14 September 2018
Miséricorde, MIS08 0101, Espace Güggi, 9.00 – 17.30 h

Keynote speakers: Michael S. Brady (Glasgow), Bridget Clarke (Montana), Natalie Depraz (Rouen)

Some philosophers suggest that attention, compassion and empathy play an important role in our moral lives and interact with each other while doing so. While the role of empathy and compassion has been frequently discussed in ethics, the role of attention in our moral lives has often been left aside. However, virtue and care ethics suggest that not only empathy and compassion, but also a certain kind of attention, are important. They all enable us not only to successfully act morally, but also to lead overall good lives. It also seems that attention plays a significant part in enabling us to feel empathy and compassion. Indeed, how can we feel empathy or compassion towards others without paying attention to them? Furthermore, attention seems to be crucial to form moral judgements since it renders us attentive to certain facts and reasons.

This two-day workshop intends to explore what empathy, compassion and attention are and what role they play (or should play) in our moral lives: should we foster them, or can they be misleading when identifying what we should do from a moral point of view? We will also investigate the relation between them and their role in morality: does their presence inform us about something and should it motivate us to take actions?

Specific questions that can be discussed are (but are not limited to): what is the nature of empathy, compassion and attention in morality, and what is the relation between them? Is a certain form of attention necessary to develop the right kind of compassion or empathy? What role do these states play, or should play, in our moral lives? While we can think that they play some motivational role, could they also be of epistemic importance? In what ways does attention give us access to moral knowledge, and are empathy and compassion relevant to gain such knowledge as well?

This workshop is mainly addressed to the doctoral and post-doctoral community of the French-speaking Swiss area. Participants from other Swiss Universities are also very welcome but cannot be sponsored by the CUSO programme.