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From these we infer the passion: and consequently these give rise to our sympathy. (Hume 1739–40, 319, 576) Thus, for Hume, the process of sympathy seems to be initiated only after we have already inferred that the other person is in a mental state, particularly an emotion, based on our observation of his behavior. Such an inference convinces us, for example, of the ‘‘reality of the passion’’ in the other person. Hume does not say much about the underlying mechanisms that are responsible for such a transformation from idea to impression.

Yet they are able to back up explanatory accounts of behavior only as long as we are not in doubt that we are in the proper domain of folk psychology. It is exactly for this reason that empathy, pace Hempel, plays a central role in the epistemic justification of our explanatory accounts of individual behavior. Finally, in the last chapter of the book I will address the specific objections raised from the hermeneutic and Wittgensteinian traditions in the philosophy of social science. What unifies these objections against empathy is the recognition that the social and cultural embeddedness of an agent plays a central role in the constitution of his mind and his habits of thoughts.

Rather, 30 Introduction sympathy plays a role as a second step of fully understanding the mind of another person: ’Tis indeed evident, that when we sympathize with the passions and sentiments of others, these movements appear at first in our mind as mere ideas, and are conceiv’d to belong to another person, as we conceive any other matter of fact. . No passion of another discovers itself immediately to the mind. We are only sensible to its causes or effects. From these we infer the passion: and consequently these give rise to our sympathy.

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A Guide To Improving Your Spoken English by BBC World Service


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