Levitt on the Lawn

In the spring semester of 2005, the Scripps College Humanities Institute program will focus on Empathy. What does it mean to feel (or think) as another? When we consider the structure and obligations of social relationships, ourselves and others, justice and equality, reason, emotion, and values in politics and in social relationships, this is a topic of considerable interest. It is also, strikingly, a topic of various disciplines, sometimes, although not always, crossing the boundaries of those disciplines. Our work during the semester will be to pursue those intersections and blurring of disciplinary boundaries by bringing together scholars in such fields as neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, literary criticism, history, anthropology, art history, media studies, legal studies, and musicology. One of the challenges of the semester will be to explore how—and why—”empathy” is a shared focal point in these otherwise very different enterprises. Why is it of such interest? What does it tell us about our human selves and about our relationships to others?

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