Empathy And Agency: The Problem Of Understanding In The Human Sciences

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Hans Herbert Kogler, Karstan Stueber
Westview Press, Dec 15, 2008 - Philosophy - 256 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 attributing rationality 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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Page 5 - The historian, investigating any event in the past, makes a distinction between what may be called the outside and the inside of an event. By the outside of the event I mean everything belonging to it which can be described in terms of bodies and their movements...
Page 112 - I can see, any unusual ambiguity: it denotes an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life.
Page 273 - If it is by historical thinking that we re-think and so rediscover the thought of Hammurabi or Solon, it is in the same way that we discover the thought of a friend who writes us a letter, or a stranger who crosses the street.
Page 80 - It takes no special training to discern sex-stereotyping in a description of an aggressive female employee as requiring 'a course at charm school' (as a partner in the firm had told her,) and "if an employee's flawed 'interpersonal skills' can be corrected by a soft-hued suit or a new shade of lipstick, perhaps it is the employee's sex and not her interpersonal skills that has drawn criticism.
Page 35 - Hence the horizon of the present cannot be formed without the past. There is no more an isolated horizon of the present than there are historical horizons. Understanding, rather, is always the fusion of these horizons which we imagine to exist by themselves.
Page 30 - Our understanding of written tradition as such is not of a kind that we can simply presuppose that the meaning that we discover in it agrees with that which its author intended. Just as the events of history do not in general manifest any agreement with the subjective ideas of the person who stands and acts within history, so the sense of a text in general reaches far beyond what its author originally intended.
Page 55 - For history, the object to be discovered is not the mere event, but the thought expressed in it. To discover that thought is already to understand it. After the historian has ascertained the facts, there is no further process of inquiring into their causes. When he knows what happened, he already knows why it happened.
Page 35 - The projecting of the historical horizon, then, is only a phase in the process of understanding, and does not become solidified into the self-alienation of a past consciousness, but is overtaken by our own present horizon of understanding.
Page 303 - Preparation of this essay was assisted greatly by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Page 5 - His work may begin by discovering the outside of an event, but it can never end there; he must always remember that the event was an action, and that his main task is to think himself into this action, to discern the thought of its agent.

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