Institut Jean Nicod

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What empathy can(not) do


Etablissement d’inscription au doctorat

EHESS & Northwestern Italian Philosophy Consortium


Jérôme Dokic






Even though my whole educational path has been in the field of philosophy, my research is profoundly committed to interdisciplinary aims. My main interests lay at the intersection of philosophy of mind, cognitive science and social psychology and neuroscience. Drawing from an extensive literature from all these disciplines I try to develop a philosophically nuanced and empirically informed account of what scholars in social cognition usually - and somewhat vaguely - refer to as “cognitive empathy”, i.e. our capacity to imaginatively re-enact other people’s mental states for predictive or explanatory purposes.

What empathy can(not) do.

Responding to some definitional demands - what is cognitive empathy ? How does it work ? What does differentiate it from other neighboring phenomena ? - serves the purpose of setting the stage for subsequently investigating the “limits” of empathy. Indeed, there seem to be cases where empathizing with someone is considerably impaired or even impossible : we might know too little about the other person, or misrepresent her in several ways, or she might substantially differ from us in some relevant respects, or undergo experiences which are simply inconceivable for us etc.

I label these kinds of issues the “empathy gap issue”, a formula which broadly indicates any significant obstacle that might negatively impact our empathetic attempts.
I believe that adequately scrutinizing these themes is of primary importance from both a philosophical and a psychological point of view. By acknowledging our limitations in adequately representing other people’s minds and by assessing our biases and most common errors, we can get a closer grip on our social nature altogether.