From originally a hateful word becoming the paragon sentiment???

A Sequel to the article “ Let's Talk About Empathy”

The Psyhogeos Program
Matina Psyhogeos

Empathy/Εμπάθεια/Empathetic/Εμπαθής /Einfuhlung ( feel into( or (in -feeling) /Synonyms /

What happened indeed? The wrong definition happened! But How? When? and by Whom?

Unfortunately, the word was misinterpreted from the time, that was even officially adopted from the Greek Language, into the English dictionaries!. People familiar with my aforementioned previous article, recognize, the ugliness of the word Empathy” which derived from the Greek word, “Εμπάθεια/Empatheia/ pronounced: Embathia” ( attention to the “B” strong sound! In Greek, it is a combination of two consonants (with one sound :μπ/mb=strong B ) meaning in Greek : having ill feelings for others or a situation; unhealthy passion; animosity toward others, hatred, etc. and it is the opposite of sympathy. While “Empathy,” pronounced: EmPathy. In other words, the n ( preceding the p becomes an m but the p, remains a separate entity, therefore not a combination and in Empathy remains as a two sound word, (pronounced as two separate consonants and not as a combination of 2 having one sound B as for ex. in embargo): definition in English dictionaries : passion, affection for others, sensitivity, kindness, etc and it is synonym to sympathy and opposite to antipathy! In other words entirely the opposite of its origin!

The word : Empatheia/Εμπάθεια comes from En- passion/ inside & passion / εν +πάθος / πάσχειν/to suffer. (when the n precedes the p becomes m thus, the combination of consonants having one sound mb/strong B), My first thought about the error in translation was, that perhaps the first lexicographer ,who adopted the word Empathy to English, was either not fluent in Greek and mistook the “inside feeling/passion” as a benevolent trait or. by not giving the strong B sound, the word became refined. Well, I was close in my estimation, but the original users of the word are the culprits, and not the linguists /lexicographers!!!!

My thorough research about the time, manner and any detail I could possibly discover to determine the how, why and by whom, was such a distasteful, offensive word, created by the Ancient Greeks, who did nothing superficially but with logic & reasoning, based it on the ETYMON, – the true sense of the word- thus Etymology, became such a powerful tool of expression! Became a buzz word used so freely, giving it the utmost benevolence! The fact that various psychological studies were created & seminars were offered to teach “Empathy” and/or “ How to become Empathetic” enhanced my curiosity to continue the research to discover who was responsible for that linguistic violation!

What I discovered surprised me terribly, and I apologize to the first Lexicographers, whom I accused as being the offenders, perhaps later on when the word was used in the dictionaries, but the original error started elsewhere! Psychologists, modern philosophers, scientists and historians, had been influenced by the fact that presocratic philosophers had used the word Empatheia as En/In/ inside + passion/pathos ( which is the correct meaning ( however, they neglected to indicate, or had not understood the importance of the combining words in Greek, which can change the mood of the word dramatically (ex. sympathy/συμπάθεια/( syn+passion /I feel your problem/ I share with you) or (Empathy/ Εμπάθεια( en/in+passion / εν+πάθος/ that inside feeling, in this case/passion, is not always a positive sentiment, it could be a passion of animosity, or strong feeling to kill, to be hateful, etc). In other words they adopted the exact “inside feeling” as “a wonderful/noble thing” which of course it’s not!

1. The German Librarian & Philosopher, Frederich Theodor Viischer used the term Einuhlen : feel into or in feeling in exploration of idealism ( relative to architecture in which he specialized) that’s how he connected it to Empathy!

2. His son, Robert Vischer (1847-1933), The German Art Historian, expanded the word, and is credited with the use of the word Einfuhlung to explain how we “feel into” or “in-feeling of works of Arts & Nature in his work., On the Optical Sense of Form his Contribution to Aesthetics (1873)

3. Rudolf Herman Lotze, Philosopher and Logician is credited as the first, by many sources to have the word Einfuhlung connected to Empathy meaning feeling good ( and this is the indication how the misinterpretation of Empathy started to circulate!

4. Wilhelm Wundt , Father of Experimental Psychology (1832-1920) used Empathy in terms of human relationships in an aesthetic doctrine., by introducing a derivative of Empathy: “When empathizing with a work of art, the beholder physically imitates the object and imaginatively projects himself into the project.”
GTheodor Lipps, German Psychologist -Philosopher (1851-1914)
(a student of Wundt) Enamored with Einfuhlung, transfers it to psychology in an attempt to emphasize & explain how we discover that other people have selves.
The Asterisk (1903—06) of Theodor Lipps is the most extensive analysis of empathy, along with many examples from the visual arts, he brings word from aesthetics to physiology.
The act of projecting oneself into the object of the perception.
Ex. Story of circus performer (man of the high wire- you feel it . Said : When I observe a circus on a hanging wire I feel I am inside him”

5. Sigmund Freud: 1856-1939) Austrian, Neurologist, and the founder of Psychoanalysis
Freud’s history of “empathy” again stems from Einfuhlung, and picks up from Lipps’ psychodynamics of placing oneself in another person’s position. ( M Psyhogeos’: Note: that’s : Sympathy, (def.) sharing someone else’s pain or joy , while Empathy ( def. in reality is:) oneself is happy with someone’s misery/pain & envious of his success/joy/happiness)

6. George Helbert Mead, (1863-1931) American Philosopher, Sociologist and Psychologist
Emphasized the cognitive over the emotional. Understanding how people view the world, more perspective taking ( note: again speaking of empathy, based on the in-feeling (Einfühlung.)

7. Heinz Kohat : (1913-1981) American Clinical psychologist and therapist Main person to 
introduce empathy in psychoanalysis. He considered empathy as a form of internal injury. Empathy : Abstract and Operational

8. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) English Naturalist, geologist, biologist, developer of the Science
of Evolution, did not associate empathy to sympathy on which he spoke frequently and insisted
that “sympathy” forms an essential part of the social instinct, and is indeed its foundation-stone” Did not bother with Empathy, perhaps he knew the real meaning in Greek!

9. Barack Obama (1961- ) American when running for U.S President saying “that the country
had “an empathy deficit” that needed to be filled”. His “value system” is built on the value of
empathy.  As President, he will choose a Supreme Court Judge that has empathy, he said!

10. Senate Debate on empathy (2009) US Senate started an extensive and ongoing debate about the relationship of empathy to justice and the Supreme Court! After that every one started becoming Empathetic & expressing Empathy, which I am certain if they knew the correct meaning they would never go near that word!!! One final example to emphasize the provenance of the erroneous definition!

11. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (Simon Blackburn ) 1994
Empathy :the state of being emotionally and cognitively ‘n tune with’ another person, particularly by understanding what their situation is like for them. Empathy may or may not precede “sympathy.” The place of empathy both in our understanding of other persons and in our ethical responses is much debated!

This last statement, reminds me of a writer, who was also a linguist, reviewing an article of the
psychologist’s Vischer’s comparing empatheia to Einfulhung, expressing doubts as to the accuracy of the In-feeling! I wish , as a linguist, therefore, extra consideration should had be given to the accuracy of the “true sense of the word!” If a linguist, knowledgeable of the linguistics’ intricacies, would have examined ( the definition) more carefully, and then he would’ve seen the disparity in the two words. Notwithstanding the fact, both words have the same meaning, “inside feeling/passion) nonetheless, the “inside passion” is not always benevolent and positive,but has a dark side, which was completely ignored! ( it can be a passion of hatred/ a killer’s passion/ to take someone’s life, even an extreme passion of love, could be fatal) By following that thought, all subsequent lexicographers continued with the same interpretation!

Examining all the aforementioned precedents and paradigms one surmises that indeed the wrong
definition is given to Empathy and instead of the most humane and kindhearted sentiments, in reality, entirely the opposite is expressed! No one is at fault now for following and applying that wrong meaning, however, by knowing the correct definition I am sure would want to either not use empathy and replace it with words that truly express their real kind, compassionate, friendly, altruistic feelings that were intended!!!!

I implore all my colleagues, who truly care for the true sense of the word ( the ETYMON?ETYMOLOGY) not only to cease using it but to expand and spread it as far as they can! I am happy to say that few well-known lexicographers have encouraged me that in future editions they either will eliminate “Empathy” completely ( the way it has been defined) or define it as the ugly word that is! Hopefully, I will still be around to see it! Please help me to get rid of that negative, pugnacious expression!!! Thank you!

Hojat M Empathy in Patient Care
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Empathy and its Development