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Article Title


Art in Translation, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp. 353376

DOI: 10.2752/175613114X14105155617302
Reprints available directly from the Publishers.
Photocopying permitted by licence only.
2014 Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Robin Curtis
Translated by
Richard George Elliott
First published in German as
Einfhrung in die Einfhlung. In
Robin Curtis and Gertrud Koch
(eds), Einfhlung. Zu Geschichte
und Gegenwart eines sthetischen
Konzepts (Munich: Wilhelm Fink,
2009), 1129.

An Introduction
to Einfhlung
Robin Curtis is professor of the theory and practice of audio-visual
media at the Heinrich-Heine University in Dsseldorf. In this essay she
delineates the evolution of the aesthetic category of Einfhlung (empathy) from its earliest stirrings in the mid-eighteenth century to its full
blossoming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the
writings of such scholars as the psychologist and aesthetician Theodor
Lipps and the architectural and art historians August Schmarsow and
Wilhelm Worringer. Although it fell into disregard for most of the
twentieth century, Curtis argues that Einfhlung still has insights to


Robin Curtis

offer to this day, when reappraised in the light of current neurological

KEYWORDS: Einfhlung, Empathie, empathy, Karsten Stueber,
Romanticism, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Robert Vischer, Rudolf
Hermann Lotze, Theodor Lipps, August Schmarsow, Wilhelm
Worringer, Jutta Mller-Tamm

Introduction by Iain Boyd Whyte

(University of Edinburgh)
EmpathyEinfhlung in Germanwas enormously influential as an
aesthetic category in the early twentieth century, not least as it carried
strong echoes of nineteenth-century Romanticism and of pantheism. In
this constellation, our emotional resonance with the artifacts of the world
around us, both natural and man-made, brought us into direct contact
with the universe as divinity. As early as 1917, the Russian Formalist
Viktor Shklovsky challenged this easy emotional resonance between
object and viewer with his theory of ostranenie (: defamiliarization), according to which the function of art is not to confirm our
emotional identification with the object, but to make it unfamiliar: to
make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception
because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must
be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object:
the object is not important.1 This position was developed most influentially from the mid-1930s on in the Verfremdungseffekt (estrangement
effect) employed in the theater of Bertolt Brecht. Defamiliarization dispatched empathy to the rust-belt of aesthetics.
Yet as Robin Curtis argues in this essay, recent neurological research
and the popular desire to feel into other lives, events, and objects
suggest that it is time to reevaluate the significance of empathy in both
its historical and contemporary definitions. In support of this argument she points to recent work in the area, such as Karsten Stuebers
book, Rediscovering Empathy: Psychology and the Human Sciences
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), and the cognitive brain research
on mirror neurons by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Vittorio Gallese.
While she notes the relevance of empathy in contemporary studies
of emotion, the main body of Curtiss essay is devoted to a historical
account of the evolution of the notion, dating its first appearance to a
letter from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing to Moses Mendelssohn, dated
February 2, 1757. From there, via passing references in Herder and
Novalis, she moves into the mainstream history of empathy as elaborated by father and son philosophers Friedrich Theodor and Robert
Vischer, the medical doctor and philosopher Rudolf Hermann Lotze,
the psychologist and aesthetician Theodor Lipps, and the architectural

An Introduction to Einfhlung


and art historians August Schmarsow and Wilhelm Worringer. In the

process, the correspondences between the various theories of empathy
are outlined and the differences and inconsistencies delineated.
Precisely because of its generous breadth and accessibility, empathy
theory found many disciples a century ago. For the same reasons, as
Curtis suggests: The early debates on the phenomenon of Einfhlung
open up discussions across a broad range of aesthetic issues that are still
today germane to so-called visual studies, in other words art history
and theory and film and media studies.

An Introduction to Einfhlung
Robin Curtis
The concept of Einfhlung was elaborated within the context of an
overlap between philosophical aesthetics and psychology, at that time
newly emerging, and continues to bear the traces of these heterogeneous
origins today. In order to reflect both the historical and contemporary
debates concerning the concept of Einfhlung, and at the same time to
record the different orientations of the various theories, the following
concerns itself mainly with the areas of overlap between the different
fields of research. It is precisely in these areas of overlap that promising
starting points for interdisciplinary research on the affects and on the
perception of space are to be found. First of all, however, it is important to explain why, after a long period of neglect and even disdain,
Einfhlung is now once again of scientific relevance.
In an unbroken succession since 1970, no fewer than fifteen to
twenty texts per month have been published in the fields of psychology
and sociology which contain the German term Einfhlung or its derivative Empathie.1 The term empathy was coined in an early translation from German to English2 and has since become established in the
English language. In German, Empathie is widely accepted, above all
in the field of psychology, and especially in relation to emotional correspondences in interpersonal relations. For the current discussions in this
area, research into the so-called theory of mind, which denotes the
ability to accept processes in consciousness both in oneself and in other
living creatures in order to form suppositions concerning the mental
state, intentions, and motivation of others, is key. This research focuses
on both the ontogenetic steps that facilitate the conceptualizing of such
processes in consciousness and the possibility of dysfunction in their
development (as is supposed, for example, in the case of autism).
Karsten Stuebers Rediscovering Empathy: Agency, Folk Psychology,
and the Human Sciences is one outstanding example of the work being


Robin Curtis

done in this field. In it, Stueber lends his support to the relevance to
contemporary empathy research of the historical debate over Einfhlung by returning to the framework initiated by Theodor Lipps
(18511914) and attempting to corroborate it by means of contemporary neurological research. Although it is not uncommon in the social
sciences and in psychological empathy research for Lipps to be named
as the originator,3 it is fairly unusual for a study to engage with the
history of the empathy debate to the extent that Stuebers does. For
him, Lippss model of Einfhlung is not merely of historical interest, it
sets the agenda for our current understanding of the human inclination
to feel into other people and thingswhether living creatures, inanimate objects, or phenomena such as moods, colors, or sounds. This
broad approach is authorized by Lippss well-known formulation that
aesthetic enjoyment is to be understood as objectified self-enjoyment.4
Stueber states that:
Our aesthetic appreciation of objects is in the end grounded in
seeing their form in analogy to the expressive quality of human
vitality in the body. [] For this reason Lipps conceives of empathy not merely as an important aesthetic concept but as a basic
sociological and psychological category.5
According to Lipps, the fundamental ability to empathize is based on
an involuntary, instinctive mimicry of the Otherin other words on a
human behavioral pattern that although observed in Lippss day, could
not be further explained and therefore had to remain a hypothesis. To
take Lippss own examples, this inclination toward mimicry could be
observed in the slight bobbing or swinging motion made when following dancers or in the sympathetic tension or inner emulation experienced when watching an acrobat perform a high-wire act. Although the
human inclination toward mimicry is frequently socially prohibited, it
takes place in such an involuntary or unconscious and also immediate
manner that it is ultimately experienced as a projection into the Other.
According to Lipps:
I feel this striving of mine within the visually perceived movement. I experience it as something belonging directly to it. Thus I
feel myself striving within this movement, striving for the kinesthetic sense of motion that corresponds to the visually perceived
movement, and with it for this movement itself. To put it more
generally, I feel myself within a thing perceived, striving to execute a movement.6
This automatic co-experiencing can be regarded as the very core of
empathy. On the basis of this model of empathy based on mimicry and
projection, and with the help of new neurological research results that

An Introduction to Einfhlung


now empirically underpin this model, Stueber argues for a reevaluation

of empathy and thus for a reappraisal of Einfhlung.
In order to distinguish simple motor transference from more complex operations, experienced for example during instances of emotional
correspondence, Stueber differentiates between basic and reactive
forms of empathy. While basic empathy is described as a direct, bodily
understanding of observed conditions, reactive empathy presupposes
a processing that can tell us more about motivationsand therefore at
the same time about affective states. Basic empathy is regarded as a
mechanism that allows us, by means of a direct process of perception, to
recognize an Other or an opposite number as same-minded. We recognize that the other person is angry or deliberately grasps a cup.7 Yet
only by using our cognitive abilities and deliberative capacities in
order to reenact or imitate in our own mind the thought processes
of the other person are we able to conceive of another persons
more complex social behavior as the behavior of a rational agent
who acts for a reason.8
Reactive empathy presupposes cognitive processes, such as use of the
imagination, in order to enable a more complex processing of data.
What is remarkable about Stuebers model is that he associates the
activity of so-called mirror neurons, only recently discovered, exclusively with basic and not with the more complex reactive empathy. The discovery in the mid-1990s of mirror neurons in the brains
of macaques9 and the subsequent proof of analogous brain activity in
humans was nothing short of revolutionary for empathy research. The
Italian scientists who made this discovery recorded how certain neurons
in the premotor cortex react both when a monkey picks up a piece of
food with its own hand and when it merely observes another monkey
picking up a piece of food. Interestingly, the neurons did not react when
the observed hand made the same movement without reaching for food.
Similar involuntary reactions to actions and movements were recorded
in humans by means of nuclear magnetic resonance tomography. These
reactions indicated mirror neuron activity both when observing movements and when hearing certain sounds.10 It is nevertheless important
to note that the studies carried out to date relate by and large to simple
actions (both in humans and animals),11 and therefore it is not yet possible to determine to what extent complex experiences such as emotions
can result in an emotional transfer, for example of the type that occurs
during the watching of feature films. Accordingly Stueber remains sober
in his assessment of mirror neurons: he maintains a distance from the
euphoria that has been in evidence since their discovery, above all in
social sciences and humanities research with an interdisciplinary focus,
which hoped to see in mirror neurons direct proof of all kinds of complex empathetic reactions in humans. Stueber regards mirror neurons


Robin Curtis

as corroborating the type of mimicry previously described by Lipps and

sees it as the driving force behind the simple, embodied basic empathy.
Vittorio Gallese, one of the two leaders of the laboratory in Parma
responsible for discovering mirror neurons, has also noticed the analogous relationship between the behavior of mirror neurons and the
grounding of empathy theory in mimicry. He regards mirror neurons as
components of a complex system consisting, as he sees it, of a sequence
of mirror matching mechanisms that are capable of executing diverse
imitation operations. Under Galleses hypothesis, these mechanisms
constitute a basic organizational feature of the brain in enabling intersubjective experience. He refers to this intersubjective, intentional space
as the shared manifold of intersubjectivity.12 Affect transfer is a key
function of this system. What is remarkable about this model is that
it is the multimodal quality of intersubjective experience that Gallese
emphasizes. Whereas mirror neuron research up to now has focused on
the observing and mirroring of actions (action and action imitation),
Gallese stresses that the selfother analogy [] has a global dimension
that encompasses all aspects defining a life form, from its peculiar body
to its peculiar affect.13 At this point he refers to the research conducted
by Daniel Stern.
With this key reference, Gallese emphasizes the diversity and complexity of affective reactions to the actions of others. Arguably, this
goes far beyond both an understanding of perception that conceives
of the senses as a separately functioning capability and the typical
descriptions of the emotions.14 Sterns research suggests that, thanks
to an inclination toward amodal perception, all people are capable of
perceiving so-called vitality affects from earliest childhood onward.
These are affects that, according to Stern, are difficult to define because
they cannot be described using the usual taxonomy of affects. They
are better captured by dynamic, kinetic terms, such as surging, fading away, fleeting, explosive, crescendo, decrescendo, bursting,
drawn out.15 This reference to the early affective behavior of humans
addresses two important aspects of empathy research, and it is important to note that Gallese firstly concedes a broader understanding of the
affects that is not based exclusively on the evaluation and categorization
of the emotional state of other people and secondly focuses strongly
on atmospheric characteristics, thereby implicitly admitting questions
of form as well. Both these aspects were essential to the discussion of
Einfhlung in the historical context. Emphasizing them circumvents the
otherwise very strict separation of empathy in living beings (and above
all in humans) and empathy in forms.
This is what Theodor Lipps himself called Natureinfhlung (natural
empathy),16 an essential aspect of Einfhlungssthetik (the aesthetics
of empathy) which he discusses in a key text on Einfhlung initially
in relation to inanimate objects, only afterward turning his attention
to empathy with the sensory manifestation of human beings.17 With

An Introduction to Einfhlung


this he wanted to make it plain that for him both aesthetic experiences
and everyday experiences were relevant to the concept of Einfhlung.
According to Lipps, living beings on the one hand and objects on the
other were of equal importance in relation to the human tendency toward mimicry. We are able to empathize with human gestures, the form
of a body, or even a landscape, because every sensory object demands
an activity on my part.18 At the heart of Lippss concept of Einfhlung,
which for him and many of his contemporaries constituted the fundamental concept of contemporary aesthetics,19 was the dynamism of
For what I feel is, quite generally, life. And life is energy, inner
exertion, striving, and achieving. Life can be summed up with
one word: activity, freely flowing or inhibited, easy or effortful, in
harmony or in conflict with itself, tensing and relaxing, concentrated on a single point or dissolving into lifes manifold actions
and losing itself in them.20
In these descriptions, reminiscent of Sterns vitality affects, Lipps is referring to a life force that can be recognized everywhere in the world but
by no means inevitably or automatically results in Einfhlung.
For Lipps, Einfhlung is an active, intentional act, an experience of
the vitality of the self that can be felt in objectified form in the things of
the world. Accordingly, he distinguishes between that which a sensible
object expresses (presupposing merely a judgment or an act of logic
on the part of the subject, which is neither felt nor experienced as activity) and that which is empathized with, because only by feeling activity
(or the striving or desire for movement21) is objectified self-enjoyment
Insofar as I apprehend things rationally, I necessarily permeate
them with such striving, such activity, such energy. When apprehended by means of reason, they then bear the like within them
as an aspect of their being. It is contained in them, to the extent
that they are my objects, are a part of me.22
The act of empathizing ultimately means imbuing an object with life,
although this is not actually experienced as such. Lipps repeatedly
stresses that the striving in which one participates is experienced not
as something imaginatively added on to the object, but as something
emanating from it. According to Lipps:
In the actual act of Einfhlung, my feeling of striving and doing is not separate from the striving projected into the things.
Einfhlung consists precisely in the identity of both things, in
other words in the identification of myself with the object. This


Robin Curtis

means that when empathizing with earth and stone, I feel neither
myself striving apart from the stone or the earth, neither the stone
or earth separately striving from me. Nor do I feel myself striving,
with the stone or earth imagined as striving next to me. No, I feel
myself striving in the stone and the earth, or else within the whole
state of affairs of the stone floating above the earth. This is how I
feel when contemplating such things.23
Although frequently understood as a simple projection onto an object,
Lipps regarded this activity as an objectification and thus a fundamental
opportunity to allow all life to resonate within us.24 Lippss position
stands out for his interest in empathetic experiences with both living
creatures and inanimate objects, but at the same time points to an aspect
that was to play a key role in the history of the conceptbut which
would also later be its undoing.
The conviction that the roots of empathy lie in the metaphysical
outlook of Romanticism and that it is therefore based on a pantheistic worldview is persistent and goes back a long way. The concept
of Einfhlungor perhaps it would be more accurate to say the verb
einfhlenis first encountered in the writings of Herder,25 and soon
after in Novaliss fragment Die Lehrlinge zu Sais, written between 1798
and 1799 and published posthumously in 1802. In Novalis the act of
empathizing with something offers an opportunity to finally achieve the
closeness to nature that was yearned for during that age:
And thus will no one comprehend nature who possesses no organ
of nature, no inner nature-generating and nature-isolating organ,
who does not as if spontaneously recognize and distinguish nature everywhere in everything, and, with an innate urge to procreate, in a fervent manifold affinity with all things, intermingles,
through the medium of feeling, with all natural beings, as it were
feels into them [in sie hineinfhlt].26
Whereas Herders contribution to the development of the term is generally overlooked by the theoreticians of Einfhlung, Theobald Ziegler
identified Novalis as the originator of the concept as early as 1894. In
his text Zur Genesis eines sthetischen Begriffs he is also the first to
employ the term Einfhlungs-sthetik (aesthetics of empathy).27
Nevertheless, the notion that empathetic resonance could be a key
element of everyday as well as aesthetic experience was already in the
air in the last few decades of the eighteenth century. Different though
the authorial intentions and specific contexts may have been, not a few
literary utterances of the day bear a resemblance to the phenomenon of
Einfhlung, even where the word itself is not used. Thus Martin Fontius
believes he has found the very first mention of the empathy concept
in a letter dated February 2, 1757 from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing to

An Introduction to Einfhlung


Moses Mendelssohn. In it Lessing distinguishes between the first affect, namely that directly experienced, and the second, which for him
plays a subsidiary role: for this affect is not experienced by the playing
persons and we do not experience it simply because they experience
it, but rather it arises in us originally as a result of the effect of the
objects on us.28 With this reference to Lessing, Fontius draws attention
to a second line of development in the concept of Einfhlung, one that
emerged back in the Age of Enlightenment alongside that mentioned
above, which can be sited in the Romantic discourse on the symbolism
of form and the relationship of man to nature. This second manifestation of Einfhlung is analogous to aesthetic identification, of which
Lessing was somewhat disdainful, but which could nevertheless already,
by that time, be considered a key principle of ethics and an important
aspect of interpersonal experiencefor example by Adam Smith, who
used the term fellow-feeling.29
In the middle of the nineteenth century the idea of natural beauty
started to acquire central importance in aesthetic theory, and this same
engagement with nature assumed a key role in the work of Friedrich
Theodor Vischer. Along with his son Robert Vischer, the philosopher and literary scholar can be regarded as the founding father of
Einfhlungstheorie. Although the word Einfhlung appears for the first
time in his sons dissertation, published in 1873 under the title Ueber
das optische Formgefhl. Ein Beitrag zur Aesthetik, it is appropriate to
talk, as does Wilhelm Perpeet, of a major influence exerted by the elder
Vischer on the younger, for:
In using the word Einfhlung, the son summarized with unerring
accuracy the intentions of the father, who had previously spoken
vaguely enoughof passing into, putting oneself entirely in,
giving, lending, conferring contemplation, looking in,
reading into, understanding, animating, a surmising or
symbolic feeling into, carrying over, imagining the manifestations, immersing oneself in, immersion.30
That Einfhlungstheorie emerged within the context of the aesthetics
of nature and not within that of the philosophy of art is, as Perpeet emphasizes, of crucial importance. And yet this fact is readily overlooked
because of the tendency to interpret Friedrich Theodor Vischers focus
on nature as a late result of Romantic speculation. However, the issue herein Perpeetis to reinvestigate the origins of the aesthetics of
empathy and in doing so to profile the role of Vischer the elder more
Because the word Einfhlung also occurred in the writings of
Herder, Novalis, August Wilhelm Schlegel, and Jean Paul, with
the exception of their inaugurator Friedrich Theodor Vischer,


Robin Curtis

they [the developers of the aesthetics of Einfhlung, R.C.] believed themselves to be in league with the Romantics and their
zoomorphic concept of nature, which allowed for a cosmic-sympathetic empathy of humankind with the same. Ziegler, Stern,
Geiger, and Worringer date the conceptual basis for the aesthetics
of Einfhlung to the pronounced Romantic fondness for nature as
the quintessence of the great ideal, self-contained, eternally budding organism of the world, to merge with which, and thereby
casting off the limitless diversity of individual consciousness, is an
existential need of humankind.31
For Friedrich Theodor Vischer, nature was not endowed with a soul.
He subscribed to an emphatically enlightened, scientific, and positivistic
view of nature which was in no way compatible with the stance of the
Romantics. Rather, his interest in natural beauty was born out of the
desire to develop the work of Hegel on this precise point, andunlike
Hegelto recognize the possibility of experiencing beauty in nature.
For Vischer, the phenomenon of Einfhlung was the key to the
problem of natural beauty, for beauty is not a thing but an act;32
accordingly, empathy is not a function of the imagination, but rather an
actualization of beauty in a given form, an actualization that contains
a symbolic transfer of our emotions into that form. This transfer takes
place in two stagesin the first stage the actualization is experienced as
a loaning, because we are fully aware that nature, as Vischer formulates
it, is the mute realm of necessity.33 In the second stage, however, we
feel that this phenomenon occurs as a process of loaning and nothing
else, and thus is the mental process completed,
which is logically a contradiction, but aesthetically of the greatest
appeal, as if nature simultaneously concealed within itself a soul
connected to or reflecting the dispositions of human nature, and
yet in its unalloyed objectivity and conformity to natural laws,
knew nothing of the sufferings of subjective life.34
The ascribing of these ideas to a pantheistic paradigm, vehemently rejected by Perpeet, is a matter of dispute in the wider literature concerning the origins of Einfhlungssthetik. The problem is pertinently formulated by Jutta Mller-Tamm, who makes an important distinction:
In fact, writes Mller-Tamm, the early aesthetics of empathy developed entirely within the province of pantheismor more precisely
within the province of a psychology of pantheistic feelings35and the
latter would seem to be closer to Friedrich Theodor Vischers intentions.
At roughly the same time as Vischer, Rudolf Hermann Lotze was
working on a Theorie des innerlichen Miterlebens (theory of inner cofeeling) that was largely analogous with Einfhlung. Due to his medical training, Lotze, who held a philosophy professorship at Gttingen,

An Introduction to Einfhlung


turned his attention far more actively than Vischer to the investigation
of sense physiology and above all perception of space. Lotzes concept
of so-called Lokalzeichen (local signs) combined the findings of the
physiology of perception with those of philosophy.36 In an attempt
to explain how three-dimensional impressions originate, Lotze postulated that pieces of information regarding seen forms, gathered by
means of a combination of retinal information and muscle movement
in the eye and body, are repeatedly remembered and recombined with
one another. For example when we contemplate a distant object and
need to consciously adjust our eyes in order to make that object the
focus of our vision, new Lokalzeichen are created, while the old local
signs provide the entire movement with a determining framework. This
means that three-dimensional experience comes about as a result of a
subject remembering previous muscle movements that were necessary
at some point in the past in order to observe specific objectsand furthermore from the most favorable viewing position. Under this concept,
spatial experiences are created as the result of a joint action of body and
mind through combinations of sensory experiences in a quasi-cognitive
This emphasizing of the role played by physiological and mental
memory in spatial experiences has a significant influence on the way in
which we engage with natural forms. In the second volume of his threevolume work, Mikrokosmos. Ideen zur Naturgeschichte und Geschichte
der Menschheit, Lotze describes the human tendency to imitate the
forms and specifically spatial existence of other beings. He writes:
No physical form is so recalcitrant that our imagination is unable
to transport itself with co-feeling into it. [] Not only are we
able to penetrate the peculiar sense of life of beings close to us
in their nature, the joyful flight of a singing bird or the graceful
sprightliness of the gazelle; not only do we draw tight the threads
of our feelings around the smallest thing, in order to dream our
way into the limited existence of a mussel and the monotonous
enjoyment of its apertures and closures; not only do we stretch
up our minds into the slender forms of a tree, whose delicate
branches are animated by the pleasure of graceful bending and
wafting; on the contrary, we also transfer these tentative feelings
onto inanimate objects, transforming the dead loads and supports
of a building into the many limbs of a living body whose inner
tensions pass over into us.37
Lotze emphasizes here the importance of the memory of the sensation of
gravity and tension to our perception of other phenomena, for without
doubt the generalized memory of the activity of our own bodies contributes to the intensity of these moments of contemplation.38 Here,
projecting ones own bodily experience onto physical things, in other


Robin Curtis

words living beings and external forms, constitutes the basis for the
specific enjoyment provided by contemplation of the world around us.
This applies to an even greater extent, however, to the spatial experience
offered by architectural built space. This broaches an issue that was to
become increasingly important during the course of the century. The art
historian Harry Mallgrave has described Lotzes treatment of this issue
as follows:
The pleasure of symmetry is due not so much to the regularity or
proportion of members as to the pleasure we take in emulating
this movement. This remembrance of the concrete world, the
self-experience of our own physical condition, altogether pervades
our spatial viewing. For all spatial forms affect us aesthetically
only insofar as they are symbols of a weal or a woe personally
experienced by us.39
The inclination described by Lotze to see tendencies toward imitation as
the product of the specific form of the human apparatus of perception
was then taken up and reinforced by Robert Vischer.
And yet in his book Ueber das optische Formgefhl, Robert Vischer
at the same time embarks on a scientific underpinning and expansion of
the work of his father Friedrich Theodor Vischer. In the very introduction he refers to a formulation of his fathers that underlines the extent
to which both Vischers understood Einfhlung as a physiological effect:
We will be able to assume that every mental act is executed and
at the same time reflected in specific vibrations andwho knows
whatmodifications of the nerve in such a way that they represent its image, that a symbolic depiction thus takes place within
the organism.40
With the help of the term hnlichkeit (similarity), borrowed from
Wilhelm Wundt, which denotes a correspondence between an observed
object and the physiological effect on the observer, Robert Vischer seeks
to explain mental excitement at all times both accurately and with
reference to the physical.41 According to this model, the form of a human body determines whether a form observed in the external world
is experienced as enjoyable or disturbing, for (as Robert Vischer cites
Wundt): Where the eye can move freely, when moving in a vertical
or horizontal direction it follows a precisely straight line in keeping
with its physiological mechanism; the diagonal line it travels in a curved
path. Vischer continues:
This sentence can be construed negatively to the effect that the
straight line in a diagonal direction and the jagged line in a vertical or horizontal direction are in and of themselves disagreeable,

An Introduction to Einfhlung


the first because it requires uncomfortable movements and the

second because it necessitates unaccustomed and rapid changes
of direction.42
In this sense it is therefore the similarity or dissimilarity to the structure
of the eye and/or the whole body that determines whether a form will
be felt to be enjoyable. The more taxing it is for the body to discern an
object, the more unpleasant the impression caused by that object. For
example the horizontal positioning of the eyes is held here to be decisive
with regard to the pleasant effect caused by horizontal lines. Ultimately,
according to Robert Vischer:
we [find] enjoyment in all regular forms because our organ and
its modes of functioning are regular. Irregular forms disturb us, to
borrow Wundts apposite expression, like a thwarted expectation. Pain ensues whenever the eye fails to discover the laws
according to which it itself is formed and moves.43
Also remarkable about Vischers discussion of similarity is his interest
in the effect of the intermodal aspects of perception, in other words the
acting in concert of the different senses. This allows similarity to be
regarded as a far more complex phenomenon, for:
It is about nothing less than the whole body; the entire human
organism is affected. For in reality there is no strict localization
within it. Every pronounced sensation therefore leads to either an
increase or a decrease in the general Vitalempfindung (sensation
of vitality).44
Yet all this is only a preliminary stage in the forming of an emotional
connection with an external phenomenon, as is characteristic of empathy. Such a connection only comes about when the observer projects his
or her own life onto the inanimate form, an augmentation motivated
by nothing other than the distressing cognizance of the lack of life in
the inanimate object on the part of the observer, who is then moved to
imbue the object with life. According to Robert Vischer:
I therefore impute my individual life to the inanimate form, just
as I impute it, with reason, to an animate non-I in the form of a
person. Only apparently do I hold onto myself, although the object remains an Other. I appear to be merely adapting and adding
myself to it, as one hand takes hold of another, and yet in a mysterious way I am transposed and transformed into this non-I.45
This is the basis for Einfhlung in Robert Vischer, although he nevertheless subdivides the phenomenon into various aspects. When confronted


Robin Curtis

with a static, fixed object,46 it is a case of physiognomic Einfhlung

or empathy of mood, which can bring about either an expansion of
the self (which he denotes as Ausfhlung) or else a constriction of the
self (referred to as Zusammenfhlung). When empathy is felt toward
a dynamic or apparently dynamic object, this is mimetic or active
To explain this inclination to imbue an object with life through Einfhlung, Vischer refers to the nature of feeling as the driving force
behind the phenomenon:
This symbolizing activity can be based on nothing other than the
pantheistic urge for union with the world, which is by no means
limited to the more readily comprehensible relationship of affinity
with humankind, but rather is directed, consciously or unconsciously, toward the entire universe. The same is to be found in a
rudimentary way in sensation and sensory imagination.48
Einfhlung enables a simple sensation to be transformed into a feeling and thus into a means of union. Feeling is more objective than
sensation. It leaps with unevenly far greater energy beyond ones own
skin to merge with a non-I.49 This is a consoling experience, for the
more abstractly one thinks in this sense, the more easily one will be
able to comprehend oneself as part of an inseparable whole. This
understanding of the pantheistic allows feeling to be expanded into
sensibility.50 Robert Vischer is thus firmly acknowledging the pantheistic and on this point deviates from the views of his father. This was
noticed by Theobald Ziegler as early as 1894 when comparing father
and son:
Friedrich Theodor Vischer refers briefly at the end of this treatise
to aesthetic contemplation as a sensory phenomenon and as an attestation of the unity of mind and nature, of the all-encompassing
unityconsiderably more cautiously, it should be noted, than his
son, who sees in the pantheistic urge for union with the world as
an indivisible entity the cause of, and reason for, this symbolizing
Nonetheless, Robert Vischers contribution to Einfhlungssthetik remains important above all because he focused on the significance to the
way we experience the world of the specific form of the body and the
corporeality of perception.
Vischers insights, along with those of Rudolf Hermann Lotze, were
subsequently to assume a pivotal role in the thinking of the Leipzig
professor of art history August Schmarsow. Schmarsow sought to
describe the concept of Raumgestaltung (spatial forming) on the basis of the parameters of physical feelings. In doing so he stressed that

An Introduction to Einfhlung


architecture can only be understood as a dynamic experience of space,

because through its specific design it engineers a particular experience
of space. At the center of his thinking were the human body and, more
specifically, the sense of corporeality, or to use Schmarsows terminology the Krpergefhle (feelings of the body), which are determined by
Tastregionen (touch regions) and Sehregionen (sight regions). This addressed the problem of depth perception, which for Schmarsow was
generated by the kinetic extension of bodily perception through bodily
As soon as the result that we shall call our particular form of
spatial intuition crystallizes out of the residues of sensory experience, to which our bodys muscular sensations, the sensitivity of
our skin, and the structure of our entire body contribute, [] as
soon as we have learned to feel ourselves and ourselves alone to
be the center of this space, whose directional axes intersect in us,
the treasured kernel is in place.52
Key components of spatial perception for Schmarsow are the vertical
and horizontal directional axes inscribed into every body; architecture
engineers spatial experiences in which these directional axes remain
vacant or are factored in so that they can be quasi bodily consummated
upon reception. In this sense Schmarsow describes architecture as a
Raumgestalterin (creator of space) because it is based on a kinetic act of
consummation that is always executed within our perception of space.
For Schmarsow this kinesthetic and imaginative involvement in a built
space is responsible not only for the formation of three-dimensional
impressions, but this corporeal activity also explains the emotional and
aesthetic power of architecture. He writes:
The very linguistic terms that we use to denote the dimensions of
a space, such as expansion, extension, direction, indicate
the continuous activity of the subject, who immediately transfers
his own feeling of movement to the static spatial form, and is unable to express its relationship with him other than by imagining
himself in motion measuring the length, breadth, and depth, or
by imputing movement to the inflexible lines, surfaces, and bodies
revealed to him by his eyes and muscular sensations, even when
observing the dimensions while standing still.53
Schmarsow is here describing imitative activities that always play a part
in our perception of space, that can explain our emotional or empathetic involvement in our surroundings, and that may even be responsible
for our ability to sense moods. Most importantly, however, Schmarsow
stresses that architecture can only be grasped by a dynamic or corporeal
recipient. It cannot simply be thought of as a collection of forms and


Robin Curtis

lines but has to be understood primarily as an engineered interaction

between the human body and the world.
That the aforementioned aspects of Einfhlungssthetik for a long
time played at best a subordinate role in the handing down of the
historical debate is in all probability related to the reception history
of Wilhelm Worringers Abstraktion und Einfhlung. Despite severe
criticism from the authors contemporary art history colleagues, this
slender book, which has been through numerous editions,54 exerted an
enormous influence on the debates about artistic practice and radiated
an inspirational power that can still be felt today. The sensational success of Worringers text, accepted as a doctoral dissertation in 1907
and published the following year, continues to dominate the reception
of Einfhlungssthetik. In Worringers text, Einfhlung (albeit reduced
to Theodor Lippss contribution) serves as a figure of contrast, for in
Abstraktion und Einfhlung the author introduces an opposition between spatial involvement and Einfhlung that has distorted our understanding of empathy to the current day. Worringers hypothesis is
as follows:
The basic idea behind our essay is to show how modern aesthetics, which are based on the notion of Einfhlung, are inapplicable
to large areas of art history. Rather, its Archimedean point is located at one pole of human artistic sensitivity. It can only form a
comprehensive aesthetic system once it has united with the lines
that emanate from the opposite pole.55
That Einfhlung is not inevitably to be regarded as the opposite pole to
abstraction is not further discussed here, although the notion is being
vigorously challenged in the latest research. The conflict between the
flat space of abstraction and three-dimensional space, which, according
to Worringer, is what makes an empathetic attitude on the part of the
recipient possible in the first place, nevertheless remains decisive and
has shaped understanding of Einfhlung, and the place allocated to it
in aesthetic discourse, up to the present day. During the renaissance
enjoyed by Abstraktion und Einfhlungand indeed Worringers entire
oeuvreover the last few years,56 the fundamental opposition in his
assessment of Einfhlung has seldom been questioned.
However, two critics deserve to be mentioned here. An important
commentary on Abstraktion und Einfhlung by Geoffrey Waite views
Worringers oppositional pair at best as a creative misreading. Waite
identifies two aspects in Lipps that were disregarded by Worringer:
First, the description of empathy as an active, intentional participation, not a static state of consciousness; second, the thesis
that abstract figures (including geometric lines) can be aesthetically significant independent from their appearance in nature. In

An Introduction to Einfhlung


the light of this suppression, Worringers value-charged notion

of empathy as a relationship of confidence between man and
the external world, as the nave anthropomorphic pantheism
or polytheism, as world-revering naturalism (45[83]), etc.,
can only be read as a severe, ideologically motivated distortion
of emphasis.
Even the Vischers regarded the formal aspects of objects as being entirely worthy of Einfhlung, for in their writings empathy by no means,
unlike in those of Worringer, had to be associated with a naturalistic
aesthetic.58 Although Waite stresses that Worringer did not want to set
up a fixed opposition, but simply meant to plead for a synthesis of the
two terms, this synthesis has played virtually no role in the reception of
Worringer to date.
Jutta Mller-Tamm, who in her book Abstraktion als Einfhlung
undertakes a detailed examination of projection, considering the multifaceted figure of thought from the perspective of psychophysiology and
the aesthetic theory of the late nineteenth century, criticizes Worringers
position from a different angle. She sees in his explanation of, and opposition to, Einfhlung a misinterpretation of the concept which can
be explained by his particular notion of the domain in question. While
psychological aesthetics views Einfhlung as a phenomenon of the
aesthetics of reception, Worringers emphasis is more on the aesthetics
of production, for it is his intention to differentiate between various
culture-specific and aesthetic paradigms that will explain differences of
taste in production and reception.
Whereas in psychological aesthetics Einfhlung denotes the activity of constructing meaning and determining significance within
the (aesthetic) perception process as a whole, for Worringer the
term stands for a psychic disposition whereby meaning, significance, and order are taken for granted and simply discovered,
and for a coherence between trust in the world, the affirmation
of this world, an art inclined toward naturalistic, i.e. organic, living forms, and pantheistic-polytheistic religion. The concept of
Einfhlung is no longer a psychological-aesthetic term denoting
the experience of art or aesthetic behavior prior to any process
of particularization, but rather a culture-historical term that
relates to a qualitatively defined relationship with the world, a
type of worldview. The main aspect of the doctrine of Einfhlung,
namely the reception of the artwork, the relationship between
the viewer and the viewed (aesthetic) object, is not excluded in
Worringer, but is paid little attention.
Worringer understands Einfhlung as a fundamental attitude that is
adopted toward the world. Because he is interested in the mental attitude


Robin Curtis

of an entire nation, which is revealed through its aesthetic preferences,

the difference between the aesthetics of production and the aesthetics of
reception is for him irrelevant. For Einfhlungssthetik, however, this
was a key question.
The early debates on the phenomenon of Einfhlung open up discussions across a broad range of aesthetic issues that are still today
germane to so-called visual studies, in other words art history and
theory and film and media studies. These issues include: the parameters of an aesthetics of reception in visual studies, the relationship
between abstraction and representation, the possibility of cooperation
between the different perspectives of the humanities, the social sciences,
and the natural sciences in the field of (aesthetic) perception, and not
least the complex questions that have been raised all over again over
the last few years in the study of the emotions but which had already
occupied a central place in Einfhlungssthetik. The art historian Frank
Bttner has correctly drawn attention to the mixed feelings that the aesthetics of empathy continue to evoke. While on the one hand reception
research modestly fails to acknowledge Einfhlungssthetik as one of
its precursors, on the other, as incomplete and frustratingly interminable as the debates of that time may have been,60 they nevertheless set
the agenda for the debates that have become highly topical for us again
today. Einfhlung as described by Robert Vischer, writes Bttner,
pertains to a core problem of our interaction with art. Although
the solutions suggested by Vischer and the young Wlfflin no
longer have the power to convince us today, the problem of Einfhlung cannot be said to be outmoded. The thorough historical
investigation of the issue of aesthetic perception and all its related
factorsone of them, of course, being Einfhlungremains a
task yet to be completed.61
From the perspective of the interdisciplinary research of the last few
years, it has become clear that an encounter between Einfhlungssthetik
and the arts of the twentieth and indeed twenty-first centuries, and in
particular those of the moving image,62 is highly auspicious, for it is
mainly (but not exclusively) here that the crossovers between the naturalistic aesthetic, which Worringer associated with Einfhlung, and abstraction are fluid to an extent that renders a new investigation of the
phenomenon overdue.

To Introduction
1. Viktor Shklovskij, Art as Technique, in Literary Theory: An
Anthology, ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (Malden, MA:
Blackwell, 1998), 18.

An Introduction to Einfhlung


To Main article
1. This astonishing information is presented by Martin Fontius
based on entries in the Social Sciences Index, the Social Sciences
and Humanities Index, Sociological Abstracts, and the Humanities
Index in an exhaustive entry on the term Einfhlung. See Martin
Frontius, Einfhlung/Empathie/Identifikation, in sthetische
Grundbegriffe. Historisches Wrterbuch in sieben Bnden, vol. 4
(Stuttgart: Metzler, 2002), 84121.
2. The origin of the word empathy is generally considered to be
the English translation by Edward Titchener in his Lectures on the
Experimental Psychology of the Thought-processes (New York:
Macmillan, 1909), 21, of a text by Theodor Lipps. The latest edition
of the Oxford English Dictionary, however, records as the earliest
written reference a diary entry of 1904 by Vernon Lee, another active commentator on the phenomenon of empathy (Oxford English
Dictionary, vol. 5, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, 184),
but this is often disputed. Gustav Jahoda, for example, writes: One
thing is certain, however: [Titchener] did not borrow the term from
Vernon Lee, 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, since Lee twice (pp. 20
and 46) explicitly attributed the translation to Titchener. (Gustav
Jahoda, The Shift from Sympathy to Empathy, Journal of the
History of the Behavioural Sciences 41, no. 2 (2005): 15163, here:
3. Lipps is frequentlyand erroneouslyreferred to within these
fields as the originator of the concept without due reference to its
complex history. Presumably, respect is thereby being paid to Lippss
significancewhich should not be underestimatedto Germanys
scientific landscape of the day. Furthermore, Lippss contribution to
the empathy debate can undoubtedly be regarded as fundamental to
the establishing of this issue in the field of psychology, for although
Lipps held a philosophy professorship at Munich University, he was
interested in a range of issues that we associate more readily today
with psychology.
4. See Theodor Lipps, Einfhlung und sthetischer Genu, Die
Zukunft 54 (January 1906): 10014, for a condensed exposition of
his thesis.
5. Karsten R. Stueber, Rediscovering Empathy: Folk Psychology and
the Human Sciences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 7. (Earlier
German-language publications by the same author appeared under
the name Karsten R. Stber.)
6. Theodor Lipps, Grundlegung der Asthetik, part one (Hamburg:
Voss, 1903), 120.
7. Stueber, Rediscovering Empathy, 147.
8. Ibid., 21.


Robin Curtis

9. The original research results were published by both Giacomo

Rizzolatti and Vittorio Gallese, the two leaders of the research team
in Parma, Italy. See Giacomo Rizzolatti and others, Premotor
Cortex and the Recognition of Motor Actions, Cognitive Brain
Research 3 (1996): 13141, and Vittorio Gallese and others,
Action Recognition in the Premotor Cortex, Brain 119, no 2
(1996): 593609.
10. For an overview of the numerous research projects on this subject,
see, for example, Maksim Stamenov and Vittorio Gallese, Mirror
Neurons and the Evolution of Brain and Language (Amsterdam:
John Benjamins, 2002) and Andrew Melzoff and Wolfgang Prinz,
The Imitative Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
11. An interesting exception is a study conducted in Great Britain that
investigated ballet dancers, capoeiristas, and a group of control
subjects who were experts in neither ballet nor capoeira. Each of
the three groups viewed video recordings of a ballet dancer and a
capoeira dancer each performing a jump movement belonging to
the repertoire of their own dance style. The movement lasted barely
more than one or two seconds and the two jumps resembled each
other in form. It was established in this case that the acquisition of
specific motor skills (such as ballet or capoeira) strongly influences
the reaction of the mirror neurons. The mirror neurons of the ballet
dancers were most strongly stimulated when observing the movement from the ballet repertoire. The same applied to the capoeiristas when watching their own jump; each group reacted less
strongly to the other groups movements. The group comprising
non-dancers displayed the lowest level of mirror-neuron reaction,
irrespective of which dance type they were observing. The study also
contested the widespread thesis that the observer and the observed
both need to be present for mirror neuron activity to take place.
See B. Calvo-Merino, D.E. Glaser, J. Grzes, R.F. Passingham, and
P. Haggard, Action Observation and Acquired Motor Skills: An
fMRI Study with Expert Dancers, Cerebral Cortex 15 (August
2005): 12439.
12. Vittorio Gallese, The Roots of Empathy: The Shared Manifold
Hypothesis and the Neural Basis of Intersubjectivity, Psychopathology 35 (2003): 17180, here 175.
13. Ibid.
14. Stern writes that infants appear to have an innate general capacity, which can be called amodal perception, to take information
received in one sensory modality, and somehow translate it into
another sensory modality. [] These abstract representations that
the infant experiences are not sights and sounds and touches and
nameable objects, but rather shapes, intensities, and temporal patternsthe more global qualities of experience (Daniel N. Stern,

An Introduction to Einfhlung







The Interpersonal World of the Infant, London: Karnac Books,

1998, 51).
Ibid., 54.
Theodor Lipps, Einfhlung und sthetischer Genu, in Aesthetik,
ed. Emil Utitz (Berlin: Pan-Verlag Rolf Heise, 1924), 160.
Ibid., 161.
Ibid., 155.
Ibid., 152.
Ibid., 155.
Ibid., 160.
Lipps, Grundlegung der sthetik, 182.
Lipps, Einfhlung und sthetischer Genu, 167.
Herder considered the act of empathizing (sich-Einfhlen) as a way
of imaginatively evoking the affective situation and perceptions of
people in foreign cultures and past epochs to such an extent that
their worlds could be adequately discussed. See Johann Gottfried
Herder, Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der
Menschheit [1774], in Schriften zu Philosophie, Literatur, Kunst
und Altertum, 17741787, ed. Jrgen Brummack and Martin
Bollacher (Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1994),
Novalis, Die Lehrlinge zu Sais, in Novalis Schriften, ed. Ludwig
Tieck, Friedrich von Schlegel, Karl Eduard von Blow, and Johann
Ludwig Tieck (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1837), 99.
Theobald Ziegler, Zur Genesis eines sthetischen Begriffs, Zeitschrift fr vergleichende Literaturgeschichte 7 (1894): 11320,
here 116. Despite this affinity, Ziegler warns of seeing an unbroken
line of development between Romanticism and the science of his
own day: Romanticism is a poeticizing of life and science; to gain
sway over nature, as I said above, to procure it for themselves, this
is how feeling into (Hineinfhlen) was supposed to serve them; to
master itnot least for the scientific knowledge; for this is what it
was all about for the novices. Herein lies the Romantic mischief
(ibid., 118). This does not mean refraining from attesting to
the unity of mind and nature, but making the profound pondering of the symbol and of Einfhlung energetically productive in the
area in which it can reveal itself within the given and the tangible,
the only place where it can make itself truly productive, in other
words in the realm of the aesthetic (ibid., 119).
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, An Moses Mendelssohn [1757],
in Gotthold Ephraim Lessings smtliche Schriften, ed. Karl
Lachmann, vol. 17 (Leipzig: Gschen, 1904), 8993.
See Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments [1759], in The
Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondences, vol. 1, ed.
D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1976), 9.


Robin Curtis

30. Wilhelm Perpeet, Historisches und Systematisches zur Einfhlungssthetik, Zeitschrift fr sthetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft 11, no 1 (1966): 193216, here 201.
31. Ibid., 202.
32. Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Kritik meiner sthetik [1866, 1873],
in Kritische Gnge, ed. Robert Vischer (Munich: Meyer & Jessen,
1922), vol. 4, 383.
33. Friedrich Theodor Vischer, Betrachtung ber den Zustand der
jetzigen Malerei [1842], in Kritische Gnge 5, no 45, cited in
Wilhelm Perpeet, Vom Schnen und von der Kunst (Bonn: Bouvier,
1997), 967.
34. Vischer, Betrachtung ber den Zustand der jetzigen Malerei,
45f., cited in Perpeet, Vom Schnen und von der Kunst, 102.
35. Jutta Mller-Tamm, Abstraktion als Einfhlung. Zur Denkfigur
der Projektion in Psychophysiologie, Kulturtheorie, Asthetik und
Literatur der frhen Moderne (Freiburg in Breisgau: Rombach,
2005), 217.
36. Lotzes concept of Lokalzeichen made a significant contribution to
Hermann von Helmholtzs work on a theory of projection. For a
detailed discussion of the affinity between the discourses of psychophysiology and aesthetics, see Mller-Tamm, Abstraktion als
Einfhlung. A brief overview of developments in psychophysiology
and aesthetic spatial research in the nineteenth century is given in
Mitchell W. Schwarzer, The Emergence of Architectural Space:
August Schmarsows Theory of Raumgestaltung, Assemblage 15
(August 1991): 4861.
37. Rudolf Hermann Lotze, Mikrokosmos. Ideen zur Naturgeschichte
und Geschichte der Menschheit [1858] (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1885),
vol. 2, 2012.
38. Ibid., 201.
39. Harry Francis Mullgrave and Eleftherios Ikonomou, Introduction,
in Empathy, Form, and Space: Problems in German Aesthetics,
18731893, ed. Harry F. Mallgrave (Santa Monica: Getty Center
Publication, 1994), 20f. Quotation from Rudolf Hermann Lotze,
Geschichte der sthetik in Deutschland (Munich: Cotta, 1868), 80.
40. Vischer, Kritik meiner sthetik, 31920.
41. Robert Vischer, Preface, in Ueber das optische Formgefhl. Ein
Beitrag zur Aesthetik (Leipzig: Hermann Credner), 1873, vii.
42. Vischer, Ueber das optische Formgefhl, 8.
43. Ibid.
44. Ibid., 11. This reference to Vitalempfindung is strongly reminiscent
of Daniel Sterns vitality affects as already described.
45. Ibid., 20.
46. Ibid., 21.
47. Further aspects of Einfhlungssthetik in Robert Vischer include
Anfhlung, Nachfhlung and Zufhlung, which are not examined
further here.

An Introduction to Einfhlung









Vischer, Ueber das optische Formgefhl, 28.

Ibid., 29.
Ziegler, Zur Genesis eines sthetischen Begriffs, 119.
August Schmarsow, Das Wesen der architektonischen Schpfung,
in Raumtheorie. Grundlagentexte aus Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaften, ed. Jrg Dnne and Stephan Gnzel (Frankfurt am
Main: Suhrkamp, 2006), 270.
Ibid., 4756.
For an account of the books extraordinary success, see the preface
by editor Helga Grebing in Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraktion und
Einfhlung: Ein Beitrag zur Stilpsychologie (Munich: Fink, 2007),
Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfhlung, 72.
In the German language, see above all the works on Worringer
published by Hannes Bhringer and Beate Sntgen, in particular Wilhelm Worringers Kunstgeschichte (Munich: Fink, 2002)
and Wilhelm Worringer. Schriften, ed. Hannes Bhringer, Helga
Grebing, and Beate Sntgen (Munich: Fink, 2002). In the English
language, see above all Invisible Cathedrals: The Expressionist Art
History of Wilhelm Worringer, ed. Neil H. Donahue (University
Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995).
Geoffrey C.W. Waite, Worringers Abstraction and Empathy:
Remarks on Its Reception and on the Rhetoric of Its Criticism, in
Invisible Cathedrals, 1340, here 24f.
This problematic distortion in Worringer is emphasized by Frank
Bttner in his extremely useful overview Das Paradigma Einfhlung bei Robert Vischer, Heinrich Wlfflin und Wilhelm
Worringer. Die problematische Karriere einer kunsttheoretischen
Fragestellung, in 200 Jahre Kunstgeschichte in Mnchen. Positionen, Perspektiven, Polemik, 17801980, ed. Christian Drude
and Hubertus Kohle (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2003), 87.
Mller-Tamm, Abstraktion als Einfhlung, 270.
On this subject, Jutta Mller-Tamm, for example, has noted that:
The reader cant help but [] get the impression that it is here less
to do with the empirical analysis of aesthetic pleasure and more
about the pleasure in invoking in writing that powerful, proud, and
free I. Ibid., 240.
Bttner, Das Paradigma Einfhlung, 90.
To date there have been surprisingly few references to Einfhlungssthetik in international film studies. Sergei Eisenstein referred to
Theodor Lipps in his text Die Montage der Attraktionen [1921],
sthetik und Kommunikation. Beitrge zur politischen Erziehung
4, no 13 (1973), 768. Two books on the role of empathy in the
influencing of the affects in film refer back to Theodor Lipps but do
not deal any further with the historical phenomenon: Emotion and


Robin Curtis

the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine by Ed

Tan (Mawah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) and Engaging
Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema by Murray Smith
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). For detailed discussions
of Einfhlungssthetik and film see Robin Curtis, Conscientious
Viscerality (Emsdetten/Berlin: Gebrder Mann/Edition Imorde,
2006); Robin Curtis, Expanded Empathy: Movement, Mirror
Neurons and Einfhlung, in Narration and Spectatorship in
Moving Images: Perception, Imagination, Emotion, ed. Joseph and
Barbara Anderson (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007),
4962; and Robin Curtis, Bewegung, Rhythmus, Immersion.
Rumliche Wirkung der Abstraktion, in Empfindungsrume. Zur
synsthetischen Wahrnehmung, ed. Robin Curtis, Marc Glde, and
Gertrud Koch (Munich: Fink, 2009).