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Literature and Writing

Does Literary Fiction Teach Empathy?

By Andrew Cullison
8 Mar 2014
“Practice Empathy” Quinn Dombrowski – CC 2.0 BY-SA

One important component of ethical reasoning is empathy, the ability to know what it’s like to be someone else in another situation. Knowing what it’s like to be someone else helps reason through ethical issues, precisely because assessing how a course of action might affect other people is essential to assessing the value of that course of action.

It seems that there is good reason to think that reading literary fiction cultivates a capacity for empathy. This would make the study of literature an important aspect for anyone interested in cultivating their capacity for ethical reasoning and reflection.

Check out the article and let us know what you think. Is literature an important component to developing a capacity for ethical reflection?

Andrew Cullison is the director of the Cincinnati Ethics Center.
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