«Empathy, Fiction and Mimesis: Questions in Phenomenology and Psychodynamics»

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Although they are irreducible to each other, both fiction and empathy seem to require common mimetic dispositions, which appear as fundamental anthropological dynamisms. On the one hand, and despite individual differences in terms of emotional response to what happens, we can understand the emotions of others by means of the transformations they bring to our own affective and emotional life. The existence of such embodied reverberation, revealing an original empathy that is a constituent part of perception, a subtle but permanent mimesis - to which the studies on mirror neurons have given a recent scientific confirmation - not only is involuntary (although it can be voluntarily amplified, refined and increased) but also allows us to infer that it seems difficult to convincingly affirm any form of indifference or of profound incomprehension between living beings. It is understandable, therefore, that, in
phenomenological terms, Husserl acknowledges an original empathic pairing (Paarung) necessary to any form of intersubjectivity, Henry affirms an affective community of the living constitutive of any worldly representations and Lévinas states that ethics is prior to ontology.
On the other hand, through the emotional reverberation they produce, works of fiction require as much as they make evident the inner mimetics of our common lives (as Vischer puts it). Verbs like “to imitate”, “to reproduce”, “to represent”, “to look like”, “to pretend”, but also nouns like “simulacra” and “image” were very often synonyms of such mimesis which gives empathy a decisive role in fiction. But how can the instinctive, affective and emotional relationship to oneself and to others be transformed by the mimetic dynamisms common to empathy and to fiction? Is fiction only possible because of empathy or is empathy inherently fictional, as it opens us to the self-evidence of possibilities?
Period19 Jan 2022
Event titleInternational Conference Sympatheia/Einfühlung/Empathy: : Understanding and Felling Otherness
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Fiction
  • Plato
  • Aristoteles
  • Psychodynamics
  • Phenomenology
  • Aesthetics