Definers‎ > ‎

(LANZONI 2015)

SUSAN LANZONI is a historian of science and medicine based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is currently writing a book about empathy. She is presently writing a book, contracted with Yale University Press on the history of the concept of empathy from German aesthetics of the late nineteenth century, to American psychology and neuroscience.

Empathy’s Evolution in the Human Imagination
What Began as an Aesthetic Response to Art Is Now a Highly Complex Neurochemical Reaction
 JULY 17, 2017
"Empathy seems to be one of the most “natural” emotions, but before 1908, no one in the English-speaking world had heard of it. And when it did appear, “empathy” was a translation from the German Einfühlung, literally “in-feeling,” with the surprising meaning of projecting one’s own feelings into nature and objects of art. This meaning is strange to us now. But the feeling we call “empathy” has shifted dramatically over the last century from a description of an aesthetic response, to a moral and political aspiration, to a clinical skill, and today, to the firing of neurons. Returning to empathy’s roots—to once again think about the potential for “in-feeling” with a work of art, a mountain, or a tree—invites us to re-imagine our connection to nature and the world around us."

A Short History of Empathy
The term’s only been around for about a century—but over the course of its existence, its meaning has continually changed.
OCT 15, 2015

"The English word “empathy” came into being only about a century ago as a translation for the German psychological term Einfühlung, literally meaning “feeling-in.” English-speaking psychologists suggested a handful of other translations for the word, including “animation,” “play,” “aesthetic sympathy,” and “semblance.” But in 1908 two psychologists from Cornell and the University of Cambridge suggested “empathy” for Einfühlung, drawing on the Greek “em” for “in” and “pathos” for “feeling,” and it stuck.

At the time the term was coined, empathy was not primarily a means to feel another person’s emotion, but the very opposite: To have empathy, in the early 1900s, was to enliven an object, or to project one’s own imagined feelings onto the world. Some of the earliest psychology experiments on empathy focused on “kinaesthetic empathy,” a bodily feeling or movement that produced a sense of merging with an object. One subject imagining a bunch of grapes felt “a cool, juicy feeling all over.” The arts critics of the 1920s claimed that with empathy, audience members could feel as if they were carrying out the abstract movements of new modern dance."

Introduction: Emotion and the Sciences: Varietiesof Empathy in Science, Art, and History
 Susan Lanzoni
Science in Context / Volume 25 / Issue 03 / September 2012, pp 287 - 300 DOI: 10.1017/S0269889712000105, Published online: 24 July 2012 

"Division of Continuing Education, Harvard University 
what we call empathy. 
“Empathy” most often is seen today as an identification with, or an understanding of, the emotional life of another person (and sometimes animals), but it is historically as well as in contemporary parlance a many-faceted concept. Its constellation of meanings is, however, loosely bound by its connection to an “other;” most often another person, but in line with its nineteenth-century meaning as Einfuhlung ¨ , it could be a sculpture, an architectural column, a figure in a painting, a literary or musical composition, even the shape of a stimulus in a psychology experiment. In philosophical and psychological aesthetics of nineteenth-century Germany, Einfuhlung ¨ was a process of “feeling into” aesthetic productions of many kinds. Beyond the domain of aesthetics, Einfuhlung ¨ also became a means for historical and psychological understanding more broadly, stretching from everyday interactions, to epistemologies of history and the human sciences (Dilthey [1894 and 1910] 1977; Makkreel 2000; Theunissen 1986). A history of empathy, then, is part of the history of psychology, but one conceived as a broad cultural history stretching from practices inside laboratories to psychological theories"