Translation without End: On the Language of Empathy

By Christopher Morrison.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

“Empathy” is an extremely elusive term that is relatively new in the west. The phenomenon of empathy delimits much more than shared emotional responses between sentient beings; it opens up critical questions concerning the very nature of the self and others. But, before one can even begin the task of deconstructing the self-other relationship, theories of empathy must find resonance with a theory of language wherein empathy-as-translation is initially possible. By thinking through Maurice Merleau-Ponty's gestural theory of language and its application to Edith Stein's famous writings about the religious/phenomenological interpretations of empathy, an ontological foundation of shared experience becomes translatable. Contemporary neuroscientific discourses about “mirror neurons” may be able to locate “where” empathy takes place (in the pre-frontal cortex), but it is through a re-thinking of empathy via phenomenological and religious frameworks that adequate definitions of “what” empathy is, or entails, become possible.

Keywords: Empathy, Language, Gesture, Merleau-ponty, Edith Stein, Mirror Neurons, Co-ontology, Phenomenology, Religion, Cognitive Science

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 11, pp.139-156. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 747.607KB).

Christopher Morrison

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Religious Studies, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

I received my B.A. in English Lit. & Philosophy (King’s University College), M.A. in Theory & Criticism (University of Western Ontario), and I am currently working toward my Ph.D. in Religious Studies (University of Calgary). My research interests include: Phenomenology, Deconstruction, Psychoanalysis, Daoism, Buddhism (and its permeations within Daoist thought),intersecting Religions and Philosophies, Continental Philosophy,Theosophy, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Emotion, and Cognitive Sciences. I teach “Eastern Religions in the West,” “The NAture of Religion,” and “Intro to Eastern Religions.” My specialization is on the topic of empathy and its related discourses as well as comparative work between Western philosophy and Eastern religions.

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