10.01.2013 – 12.01.2013

Empathy. A neurobiological capacity and its cultural and conceptual history

Ort: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum
Organisiert von Vanessa Lux, Sigrid Weigel
Kontakt: Vanessa Lux


Thursday, 10.01.2013

16.15 Introduction

Sigrid Weigel (ZfL): Empathy. A neurobiological capacity and its cultural and conceptual history

Empathy & Aesthetics


Vittorio Gallese (Parma): Embodied Simulation Theory. The body in aesthetic experience

Andrea Pinotti (Milan): A question of character. The empathic life of things

19.00 Evening lecture

David Freedberg (Columbia Univ.): Empathy in aesthetic response. Adjusting the neuroscientific perspective


Conceptual History


Christian G. Allesch (Salzburg): Empathy. A key concept of psychological aesthetics

Patrizia Manganaro (Rome): Empathy and phenomenology. The roots of intersubjectivity by Edith Stein


Susan Lanzoni (Harvard Univ.): Empathy in translation

Vanessa Lux (ZfL): Measuring the emotional quality of empathy and sympathy

Empathy & Moral Judgment


Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber (Frankfurt a.M.): Empathy with the primary object. Key to Winnicott’s or Klein’s baby?

Thomas Fuchs (Heidelberg): The Extended Body. A phenomenological and enactive account of empathy


Grit Hein (Zurich): Modulation of empathy and its link to altruism

Katja Liebal (FU Berlin): Does empathy motivate prosocial behavior in great apes?

19.30 Evening lecture

Mark Solms (Cape Town): The problem of other minds. A neuropsychoanalytical perspective

Saturday, 12.01.2013


Simon Strick (ZfL): Feeling other people's pain between 1750 and 1860. Aesthetics, politics, biopower

Helmut J. Schneider (Bonn): Empathy, fiction, community. Aesthetic experience and social cohesion in Enlightenment thought

Empathy in the Arts


Iris Hermann (Bamberg): Empathy in literary texts

Antonio Somaini (Paris): Expressive movement, regression, ecstasy. The aesthetics of empathy in Sergei M. Eisenstein’s art theory


With the discovery of the mirror neuron system (MNS) the concept of empathy has gained a central role in neuroscience and neurobiological research. New research protocols such as two- or multi-person neuroscience are developed, and there is a rising interest in figures such as embodied simulation, inner imitation, intersubjectivity, social cognition etc. Since empathy is a translation of the German Einfühlung and thus refers to a field of aesthetic theory around 1900 (F. Th. Vischer, R. Vischer, Th. Lipps et al) the question arises whether and how both concepts are actually interrelated.
Neurobiological research describes the MNS as a system of inner or embodied simulation of perceived (inter)action. Understood as general capacity of mental imitation, the MNS is also considered the physio-neurological foundation of empathy. But how gets this neutral capacity related to or connected with emotions, sympathy and moral meanings associated with empathy in interpersonal and social behavior such as altruism or care taking? In several research areas the moral values and social attitudes underlying empathy in human perception and acting are conceptualized as universal traits. In the humanities the historical, cultural and scientific genealogy of empathy and its forerunners (e.g. Einfühlung and sympathy) are analyzed showing their dependence of various preconditions, procedures and symbolic systems of production.
The symposium provides a site to examine the neurobiological theory of empathy and its impact on socio-psychological ideas of care-taking, altruism etc. within the cultural and conceptual history of empathy and related concepts, the latter referring to both aesthetics and moral philosophy.

Event for ZfL semester theme: An/Sichten Winter 2012/2013


Internationales Symposium in Berlin über die Fähigkeit des Menschen zur Empathie

Radiobeitrag von Cornelius Wüllenkemper, in: Deutschlandfunk, Sendung Studiozeit - Aus Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften vom 17.01.2013

Körper beim Betrachten von Kunst

Einfühlungsästhetik unter neurobiologischen Vorzeichen. Artikel von Thomas Thiel, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung vom 16.01.2013