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DOI 10.12887/30-2017-1-117-09

Alicja ŻYWCZOK – On the Co-Feeling of the Mental States of Others: Some Thoughts inspired by Edith Steins’s Phenomenological Research and by the Results of the Sciences

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Inspired by the philosophical output of Edith Stein, the author raises the following problems: Is it possible to have reliable knowledge of another person’s mental states (especially of his or her emotions, feelings, or moods)? Can a given person gain access to the experiences of another psycho-physical individuum? The author discusses the ways in which other people’s mental states present themselves to an individual, the essence of Einfühlung (thus distinguishing it from other acts, such as perception, simultaneous collective experience, ideation, remembering or anticipating another person’s mental states, imagining one’s own or another person’s experiences), its origin (the genetic-psychological background), and types.

Following the ideas of Stein, who understood Einfühlung as a mode of experiencing another human being (his or her psycho-physical constitution: corporeality and spirituality), the author describes Einfühlung as a form of co-presence that enables the experience of similarities and differences between one’s own and another person’s psyche, shaping in this way the attitude of benevolence towards the universal community: humankind. The author attempts to compare the present knowledge on Einfühlung with the results of sciences concerning empathy, discussing the ways in which the latter is perceived in psychology and pedagogics, its various concepts, kinds and significance.

The importance of co-feeling can hardly be overestimated. As a spiritual, emotional, moral and social experience conducive to the development of emotional relationships, it facilitates the process of emotional attachment and social communication (especially constructive solving of intrapersonal or interpersonal problems and conflicts), as well as adaptation to a new environment. Co-feeling may also generate other favorable changes in the phylogenetic and ontogenetic development of the human being by promoting such psychological dispositions as allocentrism, altruism, forbearance, tact, authenticity, as well as emotional and moral sensitivity. Openness to others, tolerance, affirmation of life and love also emerge as a result of perfecting, among others, the capacity for co-feeling.

In the final part of the article the author emphasizes that scholarly reflection on the concepts of Einfühlung (as it is used in philosophy) and ‘empathy’ (as a psychological and pedagogical notion) must not becloud the priority tasks: to gain a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon of co-feeling and to shape, in human communities, the valuable skill that makes it possible to perceive strangers as friendly members of the human race.

Translated by Dariusz Kijewski

Keywords: Einfühlung, co-feeling, empathy, an individual, emotion, feeling, altruism

Contact: Zakład Teorii Wychowania, Instytut Pedagogiki,
Wydział Pedagogiki i Psychologii, Uniwersytet Śląski w Katowicach,
ul. Grażyńskiego 53, 40-126 Katowice, Poland

E-mail: alicjazyw@wp.pl

Pliki do pobrania:

» 117_Zywczok.pdf

  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887