Engaging otherness: care ethics radical perspectives on empathy

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Throughout the years, care ethicists have raised concerns that prevalent definitions of empathy fail to adequately address the problem of otherness. They have proposed alternative conceptualizations of empathy that aim to acknowledge individual differences, help to extend care beyond one’s inner circle, and develop a critical awareness of biases and prejudices. We explore three such alternatives: Noddings’ concept of engrossment, Meyers’ account of broad empathy, and Baart’s concept of perspective-shifting. Based on these accounts, we explain that care ethics promotes a conceptualization of empathy that is radical in its commitment to engage otherness and that is characterized by being: (1) receptive and open, (2) broad and deep in scope, (3) relational and interactive, (4) mature and multifaceted, (5) critical and reflective, (6) disruptive and transformative. This type of empathy is both demanding and rewarding, as it may inspire health professionals to rethink empathy, its challenges, and its contribution to good care and as it may enrich empathy education and professional empathy practices in health care.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedicine, Health Care and Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2023

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