Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How do we create empathy?


One of the things that I found most interesting about talking with Dr. Lani Roberts about was the point about creating empathy, not only in the classroom, but in everday life. The question about how to take on the "moral point of view" is one that has troubled philosophers for eons. What does it mean to see things from a perspective other than one's own? Does it mean that one endorses the way other people see and think about the world when one does so? What are the steps one can take to expand one's perspective to encompass others?

Renowned philosopher Martha Nussbaum has a short article, in which she endorses the idea of an arts education for cultivating "narrative imagination"--seeing how events makes sense in a story line over time. This is not a new suggestion, of course. But it is the case in so many universities in the United States, and apparently around the world, that the cultivating of the imagination is not a part of higher education. Is an arts education necessary for appreciating diversity and learning how to treat each person with respect?

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