Current Projects

The Science of Empathy: Conceptual and Measurement Issues

  • In my PhD, I argued that there is substantial conceptual confusion in empirical psychological research on empathy and that this causes various problems for attempts to apply such research to social, political, and moral problems.  My current postdoctoral work looks for ways to resolve some of this confusion, focusing especially on strategies inspired by other work in the philosophy of biology and psychology.  In particular, I am interested in pluralist and genealogical approaches but I am also working on a paper about the prospects of eliminativism about empathy.
    • These issues are the main focus of my postdoctoral fellowship at the KLI, which you can read more about by clicking here.
  • Manuscripts in preparation related to this research strand:
    • What kind of a thing is empathy?
    • Coordinated Pluralism in the Neuroscience of Empathy

Practical Applications of Empathy Research

  • I am deeply interested in the practical implications of empathy research and questions about whether increased empathy can really help to solve a wide variety of global problems (as so many people hope).  Within this area, I am especially interested in questions about the role of empathy in medicine and law.  Should we train doctors to be more empathic?  What does it mean to be an empathic doctor?  I have one paper out that begins to deal with these issues (Betzler, 2018).  Within law, I am interested in how certain forms of testimony–especially the victim statement–elicits empathy and what impact this has on decision-making by judges and justices.  I hope to do more work in these areas in the future.

Natural Kinds, Human Kinds, and Classifying People

  • I have broad interests in philosophical debates about natural kinds versus (?) human/social kinds, especially as it relates to kinds that seem to have both natural and social dimensions, or that appear to be “mixed” in important ways.  I’m interested in both the epistemic and pragmatic aspects of this debate.
  • Manuscripts in preparation related to this strand:
    • Looping patterns by degree
    • Resisting scientific eliminativism