To what extent can we feel each others’ emotions + physical feelings?

Joy, pain, etc.

Philosopher's reply

Dear Cloe,

Thanks for your question! Strictly speaking the answer would be: not at all, as you can only ever experience your own emotions. But you can of course empathise with others and feel the same type of emotion as they do. To what extent? Anette Baier says that behind every emotion stand the ghosts of previous emotions. Few of us share the same ghosts. Even when we do they probably feel different. So while I think we often feel what others feel, we rarely feel like they do. But you know what? Trying to feel the way others do can sometimes close our minds to others, rather than open them. We tend to be quick to say “ah yes, I know exactly how you feel!” and then stop listening altogether. Be slow to think you understand. Appreciate the vastness of thoughts and feelings you don’t understand.

“Love is the recognition of, the respect for, otherness” Iris says.

I leave you with that.

All the very best, Eva

Philosopher's profile

Eva-Maria Düringer

University of Tübingen, Germany 

Moral philosophy should not be concerned with how to make the right choice, but with how to be a better person. It should not be about making the right move, but about seeing justly. It should develop strategies to fight the big fat relentless ego. I wish I had read Iris Murdoch when I started doing philosophy, rather than twenty years in. Her writing is invigorating, meaningful, and deeply moving. And seems to get it just right.

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