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.
Dr. Françoise Baylis is a Professor at Dalhousie University and the Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy. Dr. Baylis is a philosopher whose work in bioethics, at the intersection of policy and practice, has stretched the very boundaries of the field. Her extensive publication record spans many topics, including research involving children, the role of bioethics consultants, women’s health, human embryo research, and novel genetic technologies. Among the many challenges she presents to us is the challenge to think about personhood in terms of relationship and conversation, and to allow this language to enter conversations about the direction of health, science, and biotechnology in the public sphere and at the national level.
18 January: Dr. Francoise Baylis
25 January: Kirsten Pinto Gfroerer
1 February: The Rev’d Justin Fletcher
8 February: Kieva Diamond
15 February: The Rev’d Chris Kelly
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