The Role Empathy Plays

27 October 2021, 12:30 - 14:00

Location tbc

I enjoyed these seminars, and very much welcomed the opportunity they provided to feel part of a community while on research leave.” (Dr Emily Kate Price, Cambridge Early Career Fellow, Michaelmas Term 2020)

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress Seminar Series. All welcome but please email fellowships@crassh.cam.ac.uk to book your place and to request readings. 

Dr Eirik Julius Risberg

My research project addresses the role empathy can and should play in morality (e.g. in moral reasoning, moral judgement and moral motivation), and in particular what role empathy can and ought to play in a global citizenship education (GCE) and an education for sustainable development (ESD) in schools, as well as in teacher education programmes. While fostering or nurturing empathy is frequently invoked as a key component in the rapidly expanding fields of democracy and global citizenship education, the concept has rarely been defined or subjected to critical scrutiny in the literature. This contrasts with the rich and burgeoning discussion of empathy in philosophy and psychology, where the concept has been ‘rediscovered’ over the past three decades, rejuvenating moral sentimentalism– a tradition dating back to the works of David Hume and Adam Smith. However, while moral sentimentalists generally accord a greater role to the emotions in morality, some moral sentimentalists have been fiercely sceptical of empathy, arguing that it is ill-suited as a moral concept. Taking a favourable view on the prospect of empathy as a moral concept, my project seeks to the address the nature, advantages as well as limits to empathy in global citizenship education and an education for sustainable development.

Eirik Julius Risberg is researcher at the Falstad Centre, a museum and memorial from the Second World War and one of seven national centres for the education and documentation of the history of imprisonment during the Second World War, humanitarian international law and human rights in Norway. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oslo and is currently engaged as a post-doctoral fellow at Nord University, Norway, where he is pursuing a project examining the role of empathy in moral reasoning and as a key concept in the emerging international emphasis on fostering a cosmopolitan ethics through educational programmes on democracy, human rights and global citizenship.

Risberg has a wide interest in global ethics, the philosophical foundations of human rights, global citizenship education, and moral sentimentalism. He has recently addressed some of these issues in ‘Professional Moral Reasoning and (lack of) Empathy,’ (with Prof. Per Nortvedt) Tidsskrift for professionsstudier (2020), ‘Global Citizenship Education for Non-Citizens?’, Journal of Social Science Education(2021), and “Fostering Empathy in Global Citizenship Education: Necessary, desirable or simply misguided?” (forthcoming), and hopes to explore these issues further during his time at CRASSH.