Empathy and agency: the problem of understanding in the human sciences

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Westview Press, 2000 - Philosophy - 318 pages
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How do we, as interpreters and theorists in the human and social sciences, understand agency? What are the methods, models, and mediating theoretical frameworks that allow us to give a reliable and adequate account of beliefs, actions, and cultural practices? More specifically, how can we as interpretive analysts employ our own cognitive capacities so as to render the beliefs, intentions, and actions of other human beings intelligible? These are the leading questions that a group of well-established social philosophers explore in this volume in light of the most recent (and hotly debated) findings in cognitive science, developmental psychology, and philosophy of mind. In particular, the debate concerning simulation -- whether agents interpret others by means of implicit theoretical assumptions, or whether they rather simulate their behavior by putting themselves in their shoes -- has produced a wide set of important empirical and philosophical insights. This book takes up those insights and discusses their impact in the context of their most important paradigms in social methodology today.A systematic introduction pertaining to the understanding-explanation debate sets the stage, followed by eleven chapters representing the different approaches tot he field. The paradigms include Wittgensteinian, Davidsonian and Diltheyan approaches, hermeneutics and critical theory, game theory, naturalized epistemology, philosophy of history and twentieth-century social theory, as well as simulation approach proper. As stake are the relation between everyday and social-scientific interpretation, the role of empathy (or role-taking) in understanding human agency, the implications of attributingrationality in the course of interpretation, as well as the relation between rational and causal models in social explanation. The discussions cut across well-established disciplinary boundaries so that the book appeals to both analytic and hermeneutic traditions within philosophy. In addition, the book speaks to all who are engaged in interpreting or explaining human agency in the cultural and social sciences.

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Contents

Simulation and the Explanation of Action
62
Simulation and Epistemic Competence
119
Understanding Other Minds and
144
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