Workshop 4: Transforming Empathy?
Organised by Rhona J. Flynn, MA, Dr. Carlo Salzani, Dr. Martin Huth, Messerli Research Institute, Vienna
The title of this workshop has a double meaning, which expresses the basic aims of the presentations and envisioned discussions:
First, we want to tackle the question whether and to what extent empathy with more-than-human life has the potential to be transformative with regard to current food systems but also wider contexts of human-animal interactions. Social, political, and economical structures seem to be determinants for particular images of animals (including classifications as companions, livestock/production units, vermin, feral animals, liminal animals etc.). In turn, these images contribute to the sustenance of these structures. Yet, how is change possible? In order to be able to deal with this issue, we will outline an approach to empathy, which is suitable for human-animal interactions. Here, we will be drawing from various sources on empathy such as analytic philosophy, pertinent texts in animal ethics (such as Lori Gruen’s broadly received Entangled Empathy), phenomenology, literature and literary theory. Further, we will elaborate the specific strength of empathy to form a basis for the critical assessment of pertinent structures and practices.
Second, we will ask how patterns of empathy can be transformed. If, for instance, Melanie Joy is right in indicating that hidden ideologies and beliefs (carnism) block empathy with livestock animals, then ethicists (and epistemologists) have to investigate in the possibilities of critique and of the changeability of empathy itself. Here, we will also analyse the limits of empathy since the question emerges whether, how and to what extent empathy with animals is, generally, thwarted by anthropomorphism and normalism.
The workshop will consist of inputs by Rhona Flynn, Carlo Salzani and Martin Huth followed by discussions with the participants.