Do we have the capacity to empathize with those unlike ourselves, or must we adopt a rational compassion, which trusts reason to be the proper guide for right actions?
In the eighteenth century, Adam Smith argued that the basis of morality was our capacity to “change places in our imagination with the sufferer.” But recent philosophers have warned us that empathy is a dangerous emotional force that draws us towards identifying with the suffering of particular individuals while we blithely ignore the plight of distant strangers or people outside our ‘tribe’. Reason and objective judgement about how to do the most good for the most people, not a self-focused empathy, must be our primary moral guide. Our speakers will address us for 15 minutes following 5pm Evensong at the King’s College Chapel.
The Rev’d Chris Kelly is the Chaplain at Huron University College in London, Ontario. He is a graduate of Huron University College (MDiv, 2007) and received his BA in Religious Studies, English and World Literature at Trinity College, U of T (Hon. BA, 2004). Rev’d Chris has served churches in Toronto and London both as a youth minister and a priest. A father of two, he has an inquiring mind, a love of creation, and a passion for social justice.
5pm, Wednesdays beginning January 18
University of King’s College Chapel
6350 Coburg Road
902 422 1272
Full speaker bios, supplementary reading, audio recordings of the talks, and more available at www.kingschapel.ca/empathywars