Empathy in Hume and Smith

Authored by: Imola Ilyes

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy

Print publication date:  February  2017
Online publication date:  February  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138855441
eBook ISBN: 9781315282015
Adobe ISBN: 9781315282008


 Download Chapter



For both Hume and Smith, the capacity to enter into or share the emotions of others is at the core of human emotional and social life. By entering into other points of view (a capacity they both call sympathy), we come to be concerned about the weal or woe of other people, becoming both motivated to help them and led to moral approval and disapproval of those actions that affect them. In this chapter, I will situate Hume’s and Smith’s theories of empathy in their broader views on cognition and imagination, clarifying the different foci of empathy, the role of the imagination, and the unique evaluative dimension in Smithian empathy. Then, I will explore how empathy lies at the foundation of moral motivation, clarifying how the differences between Humean and Smithian empathy explain differences in their conclusions about the nature and limitations of moral motivation. Lastly, I will show how both Hume and Smith construct privileged points of view to reconcile the impartial demands of moral judgment with the potential partialities of empathy. I aim to clarify how the role of empathy in moral judgment differs from its role in moral motivation, with resources being available in the former case that are explicitly rejected in the latter.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.