Literature, Medicine, and Empathy
In recent years, there has been a groundswell of interest in empathy as a key competency of the emotionally intelligent and a primary motivator of moral behavior. But what is empathy, exactly? This seminar will seek to find out, exploring the concept through the lens of literature and medicine.
Reading novels and exploring the philosophical beginnings of the term 'empathy,' we will learn about the range of ways in which human beings have attempted to know and understand the other. Guided by research studies and our own experience, we will explore the critical question of whether empathy really does lead to altruism. We will consider why it can be so hard for human beings to walk in another's shoes, and why we so often fail to do so. Through memoirs of suffering, we will learn about empathy in medicine and about what the latest studies in biology and neuroscience can teach us about how we relate to each other. Lastly, we will explore the dangers and limitations of empathy, reading scholarly articles and discussing the role of empathy in life and society.