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Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol.

41(2), 151–163 Spring 2005
Published online in Wiley Interscience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI 10.1002 /jhbs.20080
© 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

THEODOR LIPPS AND THE SHIFT FROM “SYMPATHY” TO “EMPATHY”
GUSTAV JAHODA

In the course of extensive philosophical debates on aesthetics in nineteenth-century Germany,
Robert Vischer introduced the concept of Einfühlung in relation to art. Theodor Lipps subsequently extended it from art to visual illusions and interpersonal understanding. While Lipps
had regarded Einfühlung as basically similar to the old notion of sympathy, Edward Titchener
in America believed it had a different meaning. Hence, he coined the term empathy as its translation. This term came to be increasingly widely adopted, first in psychology and then more
generally. But the lack of agreement about the supposed difference between these concepts
suggests that Lipps had probably been right. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

From the seventeenth to the early part of the twentieth century the notion of sympathy
held undisputed sway. It was not only part of everyday language, but from the eighteenth century onward, it was also used as a quasi-technical term. Then the term empathy made its appearance and gradually conquered much of the ground previously occupied by sympathy, especially, but not only, in the psychological literature. The story of how this came about is part
of a wider history of—mainly German—philosophical and psychological ideas from
Immanuel Kant onward. Hence, what will be presented here should be understood as particular threads in a highly complex web.
Most psychology texts now have something to say about empathy, but far fewer even
mention sympathy. It is widely assumed that these labels refer to distinct psychological
processes, and those familiar with the history of the terms usually believe that this had been
the position of Theodor Lipps (1851–1914), who introduced the concept of Einfühlung (later
translated as “empathy”) into psychology. However, matters are less straightforward, and in
this connection, it will be useful to recall Kurt Danziger’s (1997) illuminating analysis of the
manner in which psychological categories came to be named and reified. He showed how
such naming has to be understood within particular sociocultural contexts that influence
would-be scientific discourse. Moreover, “the categories one meets in psychological texts are
discursive categories, not the things themselves” (Danziger, 1997, p. 186), and this is particularly important to keep in mind when considering the problem of sympathy versus empathy.
In relation to such notions as “intelligence” or “attitudes,” Danziger argued that it was the
technology of measurement that created the illusion of their concrete existence, when in fact
they were the outcome of a set of assumptions or judgements.
This applies a fortiori to empathy and sympathy, which constitute rather fluid categories.
There are scales intended to “measure” each of them, but their content depends on prior notions about the nature of the categories. This case is a rather unusual one, as may be indicated
by comparison with another pair of words—namely, “recall” and “recognition.” As Alan
Baddeley (1997, p. 197) noted, “The question of how [they] are related is one of the oldest in
the study of memory. It is also one that remains complex and controversial.” Nevertheless,
they are clearly differentiated in everyday speech and are used in the same sense by psychologists as technical terms. What is at issue here are the psychological processes underlying the

GUSTAV JAHODA is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Strathclyde. He carried out
pioneering cross-cultural research in West Africa in the areas of perception, cognitive development, and
social psychology. Toward the end of his active career in empirical research, he switched from cultural to
temporal differences, pursuing a long-standing interest in history.

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in this sphere. or people when illnesses were said to be passed on “sympathetically” (Whytt. Much the same ac1. be they gestures. d’ou dépend toute la perfectibilité humaine] (Cabanis. 2002). and theories of its function were put forward. French. it will be argued. Jahoda. “we exist no less in the others than in ourselves. Gladstein regarded sympathy as more or less identical with empathy. if not confusion.. his analysis was elaborated and refined by Adam Smith (1790/2002).152 GUSTAV JAHODA phenomena. a whole range of other writings dealing with sympathy were reviewed. the noted physiologist Georges Cabanis proposed that signs. By contrast. without basically questioning its character as described by Adam Smith.g. the concept began to be extensively discussed. George Herbert Mead. ways of looking. During the eighteenth century. In France. ranged far and wide quite indiscriminately. In the case of sympathy versus empathy. . After a brief outline of Lipps’s approach. focused on the roots of the concept of Einfühlung in aesthetic theory. William McDougall. and such unlikely candidates as Jean Piaget and sociological role theorists. Digby. constitute a kind of universal language enabling us to gauge the feelings of our fellow humans. among others. and German. referring to some kind of affinity between not only people but also things. which also purported to trace the historical origins of the concept.g. One can illustrate this with two examples. Apparently. Charles H. 1802/1985. 1765). and there was no mention of sympathy. comme d’elle seule derive la faculté d’imitation. and so on. consensus is lacking concerning their respective meanings and the difference between them. . Initially. Both Hume and Smith regarded sympathy as a crucial determinant of social behavior. David Hume was one of the moral philosophers who expounded what we would call the psychological nature of sympathy. such as the “sympathy” regarded as linking a medicament with a specific disease (e. and on that in turn all human perfectibility depends” [ . An early example is cited in the Oxford English Dictionary (Simpson & Weiner. was also broadly the position of Lipps. and continues to do so (e. As the capacity for such communication increases. The latter related chiefly to a medical context. That. This notion of “imitation” has long served as an explanatory tool. during the second half of the nineteenth century. Jorgen Hunsdahl (1967) published a paper on the origins of the concept of empathy. Cooley. Their aim was to indicate its adaptive function. since “from it alone the faculty of imitation is derived. 1989): “Out of faithful and true simpathy [sic] and fellow-feeling with you” (1662). 97). voices. based largely on the writings of Lipps. While acknowledging variations in the interpretations of the concept.. it came to be viewed in an evolutionary context by Charles Darwin (1871) and Herbert Spencer (1872).]1 He stressed the fundamental importance of sympathy. he took it for granted that empathy is a distinctive category. . HISTORICAL ASPECTS OF THE CONCEPT OF SYMPATHY The term emerged in roughly its current sense during the seventeenth century in English. Gerald Gladstein’s (1984) paper. with Smith going so far as to claim that it constitutes the bond that holds society together. 1669). facial expressions. The general aim of this article is to describe the movements of thought that led to the current state of uncertainty. While eighteenth-century writers had taken sympathy merely as a given.” [nous n’existons guère moins dans les autres que dans nous-mêmes. They include. and this is reflected in the voluminous literature on the topic. p. its meaning was wider. or different parts of the body. Translations are my own. The psychological meaning of sharing the feelings of another person or being affected by their suffering existed in parallel.

opposing the latter’s view that the appeal of a work of art depends entirely on its formal structure. that concept had initially been named Einfühlung. A key figure in that change of direction was Robert Vischer (1847–1933). leaving out content and the feelings it evokes. 1873).THE SHIFT FROM “SYMPATHY” TO “EMPATHY” 153 count of sympathy was given by McDougall (1908). Gustav Fechner (1897). Vischer. whose biography damns him with faint praise. and neither in that nor in subsequent editions over three decades did he indicate any awareness of the rise of a new and rival concept. In the early part of the century. But Robert Vischer pioneered its application to psychological aspects of the appreciation of art. 2001). Robert Zimmermann (1865). Köstlin was professor of literature and aesthetics—a relatively minor figure. Robert Vischer embarked on it in the early 1870s. see Mallgrave & Ikonomou.2 Hence. Nachfühlung. choosing as his dissertation topic the problem of what became known as “emotional projection” or Einfühlung. and later became known as empathy in the English-speaking world. and emotion. It was not altogether a new term. Ausfühlung. Another Herbartian. and the son displayed a similarly determined independence of mind. who occupied a newly established chair of aesthetics and German literature at the University of Tübingen. literally “feeling oneself into” (R. feeling [Gefühl]. having occasionally been used previously in literary contexts. Adherents of the Romantic Movement found such an approach to art arid and empty.” dictionary translation “sympathy” or “fellow feeling”). symbolism. also wrote about art. He put for2. content being irrelevant (for details. Rudolf Lotze (1884). Johann Friedrich Herbart (1831) had written on the representation of space in art. Over several years. 1994). The few students who stayed the course till the end of the semester were not allowed to leave the lecture room for several hours! . Appropriate ways of describing mental states were supplied by Wundt’s (1873) systematic terminology distinguishing sensation [Empfindung]. but also invented a whole series of neologisms. a reaction set in. it is likely that Vischer’s forceful father exerted a considerable influence on the shaping of the dissertation. shortly afterward sought to develop a “science of forms” based on mathematical relationships underlying surface irregularities. followed by a countermovement focusing on content. with a view to confirming the notion of a “golden rectangle” whose proportions were said to be most pleasing. where his father had taken up the chair again. 1846–1854). As already mentioned. for different kinds of feelings or sensations. The elder Vischer had been suspended from the university for two years for expounding his unorthodox political and religious ideas in the course of his inaugural lecture. who succeeded Herbart in the chair at Göttingen. ON THE ORIGINS OF “EINFÜHLUNG” In nineteenth-century Germany there was an intense interest in theories of aesthetics. which began with abstract formalism. The father was a prolific writer. T. He also employed the common expression Mitfühlung (literally “feeling with. During the latter part of the century. and his major work dealt with aesthetics (F. such as Anfühlung. conducted experiments on aesthetic preferences for shapes. Vischer. and affect [Gemütsbewegung]. His biographer in the German dictionary of national biography mentioned that he treated his subject so exhaustively that he was never able to finish his lectures on time. Vischer became a student of philosophy at Tübingen. It is from the latter that the concept of Einfühlung was derived (for a comprehensive account of the early origins. see Schneider. he was involved in a controversy with Zimmermann. which made for aesthetic appeal. and was advised on his dissertation by Karl Köstlin (1819–1894). son of the more widely known Friedrich Theodor Vischer (1807–1887). inspired by Herbart. and Zusammenfühlung.

From this. p. Although I have translated Seele literally as “soul. is teacher and indicator of beauty” [Je mehr ein Glied bedeutet. 125). eine direkte Verschmelzung von Vorstellung und Objektsform . feeling and transposition of our whole human self into the form that has been explored by touch. den ich Einfühlung nenne] (R. 5. In his introductory literature review in The Interpretation of Dreams. 1900/1953. p.154 GUSTAV JAHODA ward an elaborate theory of different levels of perception. who published extensively in this sphere over several decades. 3. His work was praised by such prominent figures as Freud.] (R. and only inner sympathy. VI). as it were. wie der Leib im Traum auf gewisses Reize hin an räumlichen Formen sich selber objektiviert. Among the main participants was Lipps. LIPPS ON EINFÜHLUNG IN ART One of the few German psychologists of the period who did not work in the shadow of Wundt. At that higher level. only certain key ideas can be outlined. but there were also quite specific influences. Inner Imitation. . But after Vischer. as he put it more dramatically. it is concerned with the source of aesthetic pleasure. . He further noted that Scherner’s passage dealing with symbolic aspects of bodily stimuli was relevant for aesthetics: “Here it was demonstrated how in dreams the body responding to certain stimuli objectifies itself in spatial forms. Hieraus ergab sich mir der Begriff. Freud characterized Karl Scherner’s (1861) book on “the life of the dream” as “the most original and far-reaching [previous] attempt to explain dreaming as a special activity of the mind” (Freud. and Organic Feelings”. . Vischer’s theory owed much to German Romanticism and at times took off into pantheistic flights. our response was said to be saturated with feelings or.. and was often used by Wilhelm Wundt in psychological discussions. the more beautiful it is. Theodor Lipps became in 1894 the successor of Carl Stumpf in the chair at Munich. Scherner provided the idea of “a direct fusion of representation and the form of an object” [ . For Vischer. p.e. with the observer: “Einfühlung is the fact described here that the object is ego and thereby the ego object. 1873. So this constitutes an unconscious displacement of one’s own bodily form—and thereby also of the soul—into the form of the object. . It is the fact that the contrast between myself and the .i. Vischer. our mental-sensory ego is projected into the object. Vol. Vischer. i. only one of which I shall note because it also became a significant source for Sigmund Freud. d. was es bedeuten soll. Here. ist Lehrerin und Handhabe der Schönheit. Gefühl und Versetzung unseres ganzen menschlichen Ichs in die durchtastete Gestalt. the term Einfühlung prevailed and was highly salient in the then frequent and lively discussions of aesthetics. which incorporates the self. It is worth mentioning that long before the term Einfühlung had become fashionable. 1778/1969. a somewhat similar idea had been expressed by Johann Gottfried Herder in terms of “sympathy” when discussing the appreciation of sculpture: “The more a limb signifies what it is supposed to signify.] (Herder. William James. 1903a) entitled “Einfühlung. und nur innere Sympathie. Vol. He began by describing at length a process whereby the contemplated art object fuses. Es ist also ein unbewusstes Versetzen der eigenen Leibform und hiemit auch der Seele in die Objektsform. from simple unconscious taking-in of visual stimuli to an intricate involvement of representational and imaginative functions. Hence. I arrived at the concept which I call Einfühlung” [Hier wird nachgewiesen. and Wundt. A relatively concise version of his theory is contained in an article (Lipps.” it should be noted that in German it does not necessarily evoke the “spiritual” connotations of the English term. he influenced Edmund Husserl and generally played a significant role in the rise of phenomenology. p. it is reasonable to describe the process of aesthetic appreciation conceived by Vischer as the projection of the self into the object of beauty. desto schöner ists. 1873. 83). VII).

I am now with my feeling of activity totally in the moving figure. The question he himself asked was how that is possible. p. .’ Diese Benennung müssen wir nach obigem endgültig fallen lassen] (Lipps. I am totally identical with it. . Karl Groos (1892) had suggested in a work on aesthetics that “inner imitation” satisfies our deeply rooted play drive. although not the same as the real practical ego. . 126). completely abandon” [Ich bezeichntete die Einfühlung auch mit dem Namen ‘innere Nachahmung. for he explained later in the same article that the ego involved in such imitation is an ideational [ideell] but nonetheless real one. an ihrer Stelle.” [Die Einfühlung ist die hier bezeichnete Tatsache. but there can be no such model in one’s consciousness. and then one experiences a striving. I am transported into it. ich bin jetzt mit meinem Gefühl der Tätigkeit ganz und gar in der sich bewegenden Gestalt. Mit einem Wort. though without going beyond mere assertion. Ich bin auch räumlich. FROM APPRECIATION OF ART TO UNDERSTANDING OTHER PEOPLE While the notion of Einfühlung had been introduced in the context of art. What this implies is phrased somewhat dramatically by Lipps: In a word. stolz.” He wrote: “I described Einfühlung also with the name ‘inner imitation. ganz und gar mit ihr identisch. 191)3 Lipps must already have had some qualms about such a radical proposal. 188). Lipps was not alone in postulating “inner imitation. leicht. At the same time. p. notably that of “inference by analogy” most favored at the time. runs as follows: I know that 3. August Schmarsow (1903) proposed that organic feelings were responsible for “inner imitation. The argument. dass der Gegensatz zwischen mir und dem Gegenstand verschwindet . Lipps sought to refute existing theories. but happens all the time in everyday life. Johannes Volkelt (1905) commented in his work on aesthetics that Einfühlung is by no means confined to the sphere of art. 1903a. grossly simplified. Yet this does not mean that he dispensed with “inner imitation.” a view rejected by Lipps. The reason was. for in a larger work whose first volume appeared in the same year (Lipps. In the latter case. . either deliberately—which has nothing to do with Einfühlung—or unconsciously. ] (Lipps. and proud.THE SHIFT FROM “SYMPATHY” TO “EMPATHY” 155 object disappears . that there can only be imitation if there is a model to be imitated. That is aesthetic imitation. Ich bin in sie hinein versetzt. he explained.’ This naming we must . . it was gradually extended beyond that context. insofar as there can be question of a spatial extension of the ego. soweit von einer Räumlichkeit des Ich die Rede sein kann.” as will be seen in connection with his theory about our knowledge of other minds. His ideas must have been in flux. p. While I feel myself active within the perceived figure. 1903b. fühle ich mich zugleich in ihr frei. Sie ist die Tatsache. Und diese ist zugleich ästhtische Einfühlung. leading to the creation of an ideal world for oneself. As far as my consciousness is concerned. and there followed a lengthy disquisition about the act of raising one’s own arm and then witnessing such an act by another person. dass der Gegenstand Ich ist. und ebendamit das Ich Gegenstand. I feel myself to be at the same time free. Lipps (1907) regarded it as the key to a problem that had long concerned philosophers and later psychologists—namely. and it is at the same time aesthetic Einfühlung. how we come to know other people’s minds. who regarded such feelings as irrelevant for Einfühlung. I am also spatially. he suggested that the process of Einfühlung in ordinary life is relatively weak and superficial. Dies ist ästhetische Nachahmung. Indem ich so in der gesehenen Gestalt mich tätig fühle. light. one imitates the movement.” A decade earlier. . (Lipps. Ich bin. . At the outset. in the place of that figure. für mein Bewusstsein nämlich. 1903b) he had changed his mind about “inner imitation. a feeling of effort without actually moving. 1903a. By contrast.

The critical questions for Lipps were: How does the “me. Now supposing I associate a gesture of my own with anger. since anger. he suggested. is something unique—namely. His answer to that further question was simply “that’s just how things are”—and Lipps was led to postulate an Einfühlung-instinct. the relationship in ourselves between an emotion such as anger and the corresponding facial expression. this immediately raises the further question as to how this occurs. not only analogy being ruled out. unmediated by any reflection—it is instinctive. for example. An attempt to render the gist of the argument in a free translation is made below: In the perception and comprehension of certain sensory objects. Lipps gave the example of smoke signalling fire. p. was bound to become a fundamental concept in psychology and also sociology. The instinct is composed of two different parts. involving no inference whatsoever. friendliness or sadness. friendliness. als wir beispielswiese Zorn oder ein andermal Freundlichkeit oder Trauer usw. So when I perceive them in others. This grasp happens immediately and simultaneously with the perception. I infer that they have the same kinds of experiences. dass in der Wahrnehmung und Auffassung gewisser sinnlicher Gegenstände. We cannot do that. Freundlichkeit. according to its nature. He argued that if on another occasion I see smoke. but experience it directly when witnessing the other person’s 4. or sadness cannot be perceived through the senses. But.nennen. The (mental) activity of creating a facial expression or gesture constitutes an immediate conscious experience. Nur als unsere eigenen Erlebnisse also kennen wir dergleichen unmittelbar. die wir nachträglich als den Körper eines fremden Individuums oder allgemeiner als die sinnliche Erscheinung eines solchen bezeichnen. Lipps wanted to demonstrate that an association between an external expression of an emotion and our inner experience cannot justify an inference from someone else’s overt expression to the nature of their inner feelings. How then can the angry gesture of someone else produce in me the activity that generates the gesture in my consciousness? The answer is that I do not see that activity.156 GUSTAV JAHODA my own feelings. Sondern was diese Worte bedeuten. dies heisst nicht. and then perceive such a gesture made by someone else. The object of the sensory perception comes from the external world. such as joy or anger. which is the only one I could find.” or the self. the “me”—become transformed into the generic “self ”? His answer was that the generic self arises in my consciousness through encounters with the other self. which we name. of course. Einfühlung is described as an irreducible and wonderful fact. In order to illustrate the general character of analogical inference. This applies particularly to the perception and comprehension of occurrences or changes in this sensory appearance. nämlich derjeningen. are accompanied by external manifestations like facial expressions or gestures. It will merely make me think of my own anger and provide no grounds for attributing such an experience to another self absolutely different from me. namely. Es ist nun einmal so. We can only experience this kind of thing in ourselves. unmittelbar von uns etwas miterfasst wird. (1907. those that we afterward represent as the body of another individual (or generally as the sensory appearance of such). Zorn. He elaborated this further by considering. One is the instinctive drive as such. Dies können wir nicht. while the inner excitation comes from within ourselves. It should be noted that he was not concerned here with deliberately misleading cues. become a self? How does what. I shall think again of fire. and the other is imitation. and that does not mean that we see it or apprehend it by means of the senses. is immediately grasped by us. first. or perceive it through my senses. . wir sehen es oder nehmen es gleichfalls sinnlich wahr. Nur in uns können wir dergleichen erleben. Wir erfassen dies unmittelbar in und mit der Erfassung des sinnlich Wahrnembaren. 713)4 Lipps maintained that perception and inner excitation constitute two different processes and stem from separate sources. which. Trauer ist nun einmal nicht sinnlich wahrnehmbar. but experience as well. wissen wir nur aus uns selbst. das insbesondere in der Wahrnehmung und Auffassung von Vorgängen oder Veränderungen an dieser sinnlichen Erscheinung.

is the carrying of its own weight and that of the wall it supports. we 5. and part of. However. But how does this come about? The answer lies in the second component of Einfühlung—namely. zugleich als Kraftaufwand durch den etwas geleisted wird] (Lipps. In other words. . 3). he stated. or the thinking of the affect into the gesture. (1907. aus welchem dieselbe naturgemäss hervorgeht. In 1897. wenn ich eine Gebärde sehe. in turn. zur Sympathie. und ihre gemeinsame Wurzel haben in der Vorstellungen von mechanischen “Tätigkeiten”] (Lipps. p. a use of force that achieves something” [Das Sichaufrichten der Säule ist ihre “eigentliche Thätigkeit. die Tendenz. imitation. What we immediately and unreflectively perceive as its achievement.” but that was a serious misconception. and if it is not always manifest. in mir zu erleben. Hence. 1897. suggesting an unusual. has then become the experience of the affect. den Affekt. there exists within me a tendency to experience in myself the affect that naturally arises from that gesture. wenn kein Hindernis besteht. nur zwei Seiten ein und derselben Sache seien. Und diese Tendenz verwirklicht sich.THE SHIFT FROM “SYMPATHY” TO “EMPATHY” 157 gesture. 1897. Bemühung. Then the idea of the affect in the other’s gesture. . the tendency is realized. . effort. the term activity is meant in its full sense: exertion. Kraftaufwand. he alleged. p.” This was the notion that “the optical and aesthetic impression we gain from geometrical forms are only two sides of the same thing. in the subsequent discussion of the case of a Doric column. then that must be accounted for in terms of countervailing tendencies. He himself placed the word “activities” in quotes. . zum Mitfühlen. use of force. LIPPS ON THE RELATION BETWEEN EINFÜHLUNG AND “SYMPATHY” In the lengthy accounts of Lipps’s thesis over the years. he had published The Aesthetics of Space and Optical Illusions.” Dabei ist das Wort Thätigkeit im vollen Sinne gemeint: als Anstrengung. Added to this is now another drive. which leads to the external manifestation of inner events. When I see a gesture. The affect. 719)5 Lipps asserted that there is a general psychological law of sympathy. has become fellow-feeling [Mitfühlen] or sympathy. the frequency of the Einfühlung terminology was undoubtedly dominant. It is therefore understandable why it came to be believed that he had introduced a new concept quite different from the traditional “sympathy. . is said to be located within the gesture. the affect itself. Lipps had used the concept consistently over a long period. And when there is no obstacle. p. “The self-raising of the column is its ‘proper activity. Und dies kann man auch so ausdrücken: Der Affekt ist von mir in die gesehene Gebärde hinein vorgestellt oder hinein gedacht. V). Es besteht also in mir allerdings. perhaps metaphoric meaning. as shown in the passage below: One can also formulate [the process] in the following way: the affect is being represented or thought into [hineingedacht] the perceived gesture. and in his foreword referred to his “new idea. There follows a disquisition on the infectiousness of yawning. as does the failure of a body to fall— it being implied that thereby the law of gravity is not invalidated.’ Thereby. den wir von geometrischen Formen gewinnen. but in fact. This tendency is said to be integrated with. that of expression. . The introduction of “sympathy” in conjunction with Einfühlung may seem surprising. it is the absence of sympathy that calls for explanation. and this kind of automatic imitation is supposed to explain how the angry gesture of the other person triggers a tendency for a corresponding “activity” in me. Das Vorstellen des Affektes in der fremden Gebärde oder das Hineindenken desselben in die Gebärde ist dann zum Erleben desselben geworden. and is experienced within it. both having their common root in mental representations of mechanical ‘activities’ ” [dass der optische und der ästhetische Eindruck. .

und wir könnten hinzufügen. It is not just that I imagine this inner conduct or inner condition. it obtrudes. he saw no real difference between the concepts. My inner being objects. is a feeling of sympathy that makes us happy” (Lipps. Thus. Mein inneres Wesen widersetzt sich. The slightly odd exception is mentioned in the following quotation: “The word ‘sympathy’ appears to be only another word for Einfühlung.158 GUSTAV JAHODA involuntarily arrive at a mechanical interpretation. einen Menschen nicht stolz. Because of that. 139–140)7 In the later volume. . Ich sehe . While Lipps generally preferred to refer to Einfühlung. the use of the phrase “sympathetic Einfühlung” is noteworthy.6 Lipps’s subsequent development of his theory of aesthetic experience led Oswald Külpe (1900) to carry out an experiment in which he attempted to test the theory. As one contemporary critic of the experiment (Volkelt. .. Lipps’s “negative Einfühlung” is rather an elusive concept. was. 139). i. and this. emphasis in original). alle ästhetische Freude überhaupt. Auch den in diesem Blick liegenden Hochmut erlebe ich in mir. constitutes an analogy based on our personal experience of acting on our environment. it produces inner rejection. This is indeed the case. all pleasure produced by spatial forms and. in turn.” So verhält es sich in der Tat. he made it repeatedly and abundantly clear that. negative the experience of discord. eine Verneinung meiner Persönlichkeit. the less convoluted of two examples offered by Lipps will be cited in full. entirely lacking” (Külpe. But within myself I work against it. forces itself into my experience. pp. p.h. which Lipps still regarded as eliciting a kind of Einfühlung response. ich weiss nicht nur davon. it is not just that I know about it. . But in the present context. I experience within myself the arrogance contained in that look. . that could hardly have been expected. whose general character may be tentatively summarized as follows: It is the effect of someone behaving in an offensive and hurtful way. He concluded. d. . any kind of aesthetic pleasure. . My feeling of discomfort rests on that negative. 1905) pointed out. 1897.e. (Lipps. . 1900. Although the unpleasant behavior is said to “penetrate” the observer or victim. not proudly but arrogantly. Indeed. 1903a. I feel in the arrogant look a life-denial or life-inhibition affecting me. sondern hochmütig blicken. So ist alle Freude über räumliche Formen. He exposed various art objects for three seconds each and questioned his subjects about their experiences. Aber ich arbeite innerlich dagegen. als freies inneres Mitmachen] (Lipps. . Darum und nur darum kann mich der Hochmut verletzen. drängt sich in mein Erleben ein. solange wir die Einfühlung in dem positiven Sinne nehmen . We can also describe that harmony as sympathy. because I recognize therein a natural mode of behavior of my own that gives me happiness. and only because of that. I see . 7. 227). p. Lipps returned to the theme in a passage in which he also explained what he meant by “sympathy. 7. . Mein Gefühl derUnlust is begründet in dieser negativen Einfühlung. the arrogance can hurt me. full and sympathetic Einfühlung. namely. rather. Ich sympatisire mit der Weise der dorischen Säule sich zu verhalten oder eine innere Lebendigkeit zu bethätigen.” and so it will be cited in full: Positive Einfühlung is the experience of that harmony. p. Since this brief formulation fails to cover all the subtleties. Ich stelle mir dies innere Verhalten oder diese innere Zuständlichkeit nicht nur vor. however. given an exposure time of three seconds. ich fühle dem hochmütigen Blick eine eigene innere Lebensnegation oder Lebenshemmung. a denial of my personality. sondern sir drängt sich mir auf. “What Lipps describes as the essence of aesthetic pleasure. sympathy is nothing else 6. with one exception. we can add. weil ich darin eine naturgemässe und mich beglückende eigene Verhaltungsweise wiedererkenne. a person looking. . as free inner participation” [Nur ein anderesWort für die Einfühlung scheint das Wort “Sympathie. as long as we take Einfühlung in the positive sense . 1903b. The result is that “I sympathize with the manner the Doric column behaves or testifies to an inner liveliness. beglückendes Sympathiegefühl.

it would seem that the former implies a move from other to self. p. Es ist der Einklang zwischen dem mir fremden Leben und dem eigenen Lebensdrange oder Lebensbedürfnis. (1906. makes it hard to be certain. Generally. 21)8 Such statements leave no doubt that he regarded these concepts as more or less synonymous.” Unfortunately. typical of German academic writing of the period. It is the harmony between a life that is foreign to me and my own drive. Konrad Lange (1901) dismissed it altogether. But if one compares the formulation in the above passage with that cited earlier from Lipps (1907. im folgenden vorerst wenigstens nicht besonders in Frage kommt] (1913. of course. However. ON SOME DIFFERENT OR DISSENTING VOICES The concept of Einfühlung was widely debated. According to Prantl. p. In der Tat ist die Sympathie nichts anderes als Dies. or desire for life. It should be added that subsequently Lipps (1913) published a book-length piece entitled “On Einfühlung. Hence. namely that related to the sensory appearance of other people” [bemerke ich noch dass die Einfühlung in die sinnliche Erscheinung des Menschen. in the Hermeneutics Reader (Mueller-Vollmer. not possible here. die ich sonst als eine für uns besonders bedeutsame Art der Einfühlungen speziell herauszuheben pflege. 719). Positive Einfühlung ist das Erlebnis jenes Einklanges. he was not much concerned in that work with what he called “the specially important kind of Einfühlung on which I had usually put special emphasis. because the expression “hineinversetzen” [putting oneself in the place of someone or something] he employed could be construed as an equivalent of Einfühlung. it fails to throw any further light on the issues discussed here. whereby an awareness of the mother as a feeling body emerges. . Einfühlung arises as a consequence of a so-called “law of association and reproduction” in the course of the earliest stage of infant development. of course. it should be noted that Dilthey used the expression in the context of what he called “higher Verstehen. This. Darnach dürfen wir die positive Einfühlung auch die sympathische Einfühlung nennen. it is tied within my consciousness to an object different from myself that penetrates me and is freely accepted by me. no doubt as a result of his disabling illness. For example.THE SHIFT FROM “SYMPATHY” TO “EMPATHY” 159 than a psychic. negative das Erlebnis jenes Missklanges. in his view. 112). the piece is rather rambling and repetitive. The reason is that. The position of the distinguished philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey needs to be considered in more detail. Lipps died in the year after its publication. der eigenen Lebenssehnsucht. we may also call positive Einfühlung sympathetic Einfühlung. and the ideas of Lipps were not always accepted. ein Icherlebnis. coupled with the rather imprecise use of categories. He regarded it as a mere metaphor because. in particular his account of the role of imitation. diejenige also. That is not the whole story. the notion of feeling oneself into another person or object was sheer nonsense. p. dass ein Psychisches. 1994) it is always translated as “empathy. Antonin Prantl (1910) believed in Einfühlung but disagreed with the analysis offered by Lipps. but it is the gist of it. but it does perhaps go some way to explain the varying interpretations of his arguments.” a term usually but not quite accurately translated as “under8. Lipps’s somewhat prolix style. First of all. does not alter the fact of his equation of Einfühlung with sympathy. Within the sphere of aesthetics. need. das für mein Bewusstsein an einem von mir verschiedenen Gegenstand gebunden ist. in mich eindringt und von mir frei aufgenomment wird. and the latter the reverse. one can at least give some indication of the grounds for the objection. which is. Jenen Einklang können wir auch als Sympathie bezeichnen. an ego-experience.” Demonstrating fully why this is inappropriate would involve explicating Dilthey’s thought. his accounts of the nature of sympathy appear to be inconsistent. However. as stated in an introductory paragraph.

214).” citing psychological studies showing that knowledge of others develops pari passu with that of self. So Lipps believed that we start out with a knowledge of our own self. in the preface to that edition. . obwohl der Zusammenhang derselben darin deutlich ist. which retains the German grammatical structure. pp. sympathy belonging to the former and Einfühlung to the latter. Scheler stated that the relevant section—namely. declaring that he would not give a psychological explanation and then went on as follows: “So we do not discuss the relationship of this concept to those of sympathy and Einfühlung. and never that this self is other and different from my own. in welcher die Totalität des Seelenlebens im Verstehen wirksam ist—das Nachbilden oder Nacherleben] (Dilthey. 215). p. Scheler further argued. 1953). Edith Stein (1891–1942) wrote a thesis on Einfühlung with the guidance of Husserl. I must confess to being unable to adequately understand her exceedingly convoluted argument. . entsteht nun aber die höchste Art. . and what I think I do understand seems to me unconvincing. From his extensive discussion of what he called “the theory of empathy. . .9 The assumption underlying the theory. the above examples are indicative of the extensive debates to which the notion of Einfühlung gave rise in German intellectual circles. reproducing or re-experiencing” [Auf der Grundlage dieses Hineinversetzens. and can feel their feelings (in sympathy) as we do our own” (Scheler. he explicitly dissociated himself from both Lipps’s Einfühlung and Karl Groos’s “inner imitation. Although this quotation is from the English translation of the second edition. Dilthey seldom employed the term Einfühlung. Max Scheler’s (1922/1970) famous work The Nature of Sympathy (Wesen und Formen der Sympathie). “When all is said. 245). and only later become aware of other selves. there arises the highest form in which the totality of mental life effectively produces Verstehen—namely. he referred to Hineinversetzen. although their connection is clear insofar as sympathy strengthens the energy of re-experiencing” [So erörtern wir auch nicht das Verhältnis dieses Begriffes zu dem des Mitfühlens und dem der Einfühlung. dass das Mitfühlen die Energie des Nachlebens verstärkt] (p. 1922/1970. He wrote. 258). 242. the theory of empathy offers no grounds for assuming the existence of other selves . Some of this is probably due to the unsatisfactory translation.160 GUSTAV JAHODA standing. The one of special interest here is her attempt. In seeking to show how such Verstehen comes about. it was not published until half a century later in translation (Stein. dieser Transposition. In any case. While in agreement with Lipps on some points. of this transposition. Later. 1958.” when actually it has wider connotations (for a fuller discussion. which ranges over a wide area of philosophy and psychology. 9. Two other terms Dilthey coupled with Hineinversetzen were those of Nachbilden [reproduce] and Nacherleben [re-experience]. was sharply critical. Chapter 3 of Part III—had been an appendix to the first (1913) edition and was retained in essentially the same form.” just two key arguments will be singled out. and in a passage from an unpublished piece cited by Ermarth (1978. . but significantly stated that it could also be called Transposition. “On the basis of this Hineinversetzen. see Abel. is that our mental life is basically private. 1964). For it can only serve to confirm the belief that it is my self which is present ‘all over again’.” While Dilthey remained guardedly detached. Scheler challenged the view that we feel ourselves into someone else and thereby come to understand their mental processes. She accused him of failing to distinguish between “primordial” and “non-primordial” acts or experiences. p. Scheler described that as “a fiction. nothing is more certain than that we can think the thoughts of others as well as our own. to differentiate between sympathy and Einfühlung. He explained. her views diverged on others. Although completed in 1917. as against Lipps. he posed the question of what this Nacherleben consists of.

who was extremely well read in the literature. and Titchener had read his work. 337). since Lee twice (pp. It is worth noting in the present context that she regarded empathy as analogous with “moral sympathy” (p. Violet Paget (1865–1935). p. a simple case of empathy. In a later chapter on “organic attitudes. as might be suspected from the entry on “empathy” in the Oxford English Dictionary.” What must have happened is that Lee changed the entry retrospectively. This gives the date of its first appearance as 1904. 1909.11 In the early part of a book on experimental psychology dealing with kinaesthetic imagery. 20 and 46) explicitly attributed the translation to Titchener. The concept of Einfühlung had originally been confined to the appreciation of art. only occasionally noting its near-identity with sympathy. 1909. This makes it understandable why Titchener seems to have gained the impression that while Einfühlung does have something in common with sympathy. This seems a plausible speculation. 65).” Titchener used the expression “emphatic experiences” (Titchener. though English by birth. However. he continued to use the then-popular term. It is presumably to be found in the Titchener Archive at Cornell University. who. 205). however: he did not borrow the term from Vernon Lee. 47). overlooking the less frequent mentions of its equivalence to sympathy. 435). but I feel or act them in the mind’s muscles. might have come across a passage in Urban (1902) mentioning that it is difficult to find an English term for Einfühlung. (Titchener. p. This is.THE SHIFT FROM “SYMPATHY” TO “EMPATHY” 161 THE ADVENT OF “EMPATHY” Most prominent American psychologists active at the beginning of the twentieth century were steeped in German psychology. 333). pp. she declared herself an “enthusiastic disciple” of Lipps (p. It is an intriguing question how Titchener came to undertake a translation. Although he did not actually use the term empathy in that passage. and Ribot. 181). Titchener wrote the following: Not only do I see gravity and modesty and pride and courtesy and stateliness. many having obtained their doctorates in Wundt’s laboratory. she clearly saw a very close link between them. While she did not equate the two. 11. 1909. the very first mention of the new term was slipped in quite casually. I suppose. who used the pseudonym Vernon Lee. The first may perhaps have been gathered even from the extracts presented above: his style was typical of his generation of German academics—dense and rather long-winded—so that repeated scanning is often needed to grasp a crucial point. and I have been unable to find the answer. . both his terminology and manner of formulating theoretical issues tended to be somewhat loose and to change as his ideas developed. Lipps’s reputation was great abroad as well as in Germany. he invoked empathy as an explanation of the Müller-Lyer illusion: “So we read ourselves. or feel ourselves. based on a diary entry for February 20 of that year reproduced in Lee (1912. 20) and also stated that empathy necessarily precedes sympathy (p. that Titchener believed that the new name implied a new concept. p. was a remarkable woman. worked in the United States and was at that time highly influential. “Not all Einfühlung is aesthetic. for two main reasons. but it is a fact that must be mentioned. 21–22) Thus. while in his notes reverting to the German original when referring to “a sort of logical and aesthetic Einfühlung” (Titchener. 1910. p. into the lines of the figure” (Titchener. A personal friend of Groos. One reviewer suggested that Titchener. In a text published a year later. for it is present in the ethical and social relations of sympathy as well” (p.10 One thing is certain. it is nonetheless quite distinct and sui generis. This applied to Edward Titchener (1867–1927). It is perhaps worth noting that Urban also said. It may be surmised. one finds the two concepts coupled. if we may coin that term as a rendering of Einfühlung. Second. there is nothing curious or idiosyncratic about it. he directly stated in a later footnote that 10. the passage refers to “aesthetic empathy (Einfühlung). therefore. Once again. and when Lipps began to apply it to interpersonal relations. Külpe. it is not easy to read Lipps’s writings.

C. REFERENCES Abel. p. T. 38–59. 1910. Dilthey. “The term Einfühlung (‘empathy’) has in fact come into general psychological use” (Murphy. (1892). London: Hogarth. Danziger. The historical roots of contemporary empathy research. G. such an approach has become feasible.) Paris: Resources. who enabled me to get access to original sources. Naming the mind. and while the work is in its early stages. A. London: John Murray. one finds very little agreement on the precise nature of that difference. (1984). The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vols. K. F. Herbart. 20. Digby. This is perhaps not surprising.” In H. 677–687). J. . in the psychological literature. (1997). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Moreover. Could this mean that Lipps had unwittingly helped to introduce a significant new concept. 333” (Titchener. the indications so far are that only a single location becomes activated. Einleitung in die Aesthetik.” Yet. Hove: Psychology Press. (1978). T. M. which we described on p. Freud. (Original work published 1900) Gladstein. Vorschule der Aesthetic (2nd ed. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel. 7). Halle: Schwetschke. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Readings in the philosophy of science (pp. (1897). K. Stuttgart: Teubner. By 1932. and recording brain responses. Rapports du physique et du moral de l’homme (3 vols. Cabanis. The descent of man. Strachey (Ed. Probably the only way in which the matter could be resolved is by neuro-psychological studies. 417). Fechner. The study was supported by a grant from the Nuffield Foundation. it would be justified to postulate distinct processes. 1932. Human memory. Feigl & M. in view of the fact that both terms refer to unobservable internal processes. In J. (1953). Wilhelm Dilthey: The critique of historical reason. while there is widespread consensus that empathy differs from sympathy.162 GUSTAV JAHODA it had been what he had meant: “Empathy (a word formed on the analogy of sympathy) is the name given to the process of humanising objects.). B. Gesammelte Schriften (Vol. Baddeley. Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften. sympathy and empathy are usually treated as being different. Kurze Encyclopädie der Philosophie aus praktischen Gesichtspuncten entworfen. (1831). If these occurred in different locations. (1871). In recent years. Ermarth. which reflects a real difference in the manner in which we relate to others? This is a theoretical possibility. (1953). (1669). Gardner Murphy was able to write. J.). London: Sage. and there is no supporting evidence beyond the verbal usage of the two terms that has become customary. These would entail presenting people with “others” in situations liable to evoke sympathy and/or empathy. P.). Giessen: Ricker. p. but seems rather unlikely. The operation called “Verstehen. K. Finally. Brodbeck (Eds. Darwin. Of the sympathetic powder. It is far from clear precisely what Titchener meant by empathy because he was so inconsistent in his usage—a point that has been documented in Wispé’s excellent account (1987) of Titchener’s ideas within their contemporary context. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thanks are due to Bernd Krewer and the Saarbrücken University Library. then he was also not far off the mark. 4 and 5). J. (1997). of reading or feeling ourselves into them. 181). W. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. London: Williams. Groos. G. if one translates Lipps’s attribution of Einfühlung to “instinct” as referring to an innate neurological device triggered by other people’s expressions of their feelings. (1958). (1802/1825). S. The interpretation of dreams. CONCLUDING OBSERVATION It has been shown that Titchener misinterpreted Lipps’s Einfühlung as being a concept quite distinct from that of the old “sympathy.

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