Mirror neurons and their role in cognitively understood empathy

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The current renewal of interest in empathy is closely connected to the recent neurobiological discovery of mirror neurons. Although the concept of empathy has been widely deployed, we shall focus upon one main psychological function it serves: enabling us to understand other peoples' intentions. In this essay we draw on neuroscientific, psychological, and philosophical literature in order to investigate the relationships between mirror neurons and empathy s to intention understanding. Firstly, it will be explored whether mirror neurons are the neural basis of our empathic capacities: a vast array of empirical results appear to confirm this hypothesis. Secondly, the higher level capacity of reenactive empathy will be examined and the question will be addressed whether philosophical analysis alone is able to provide a foundation for this more abstract level of empathy. The conclusion will be drawn that both empirical evidence and philosophical analysis can jointly contribute to the clarification of the concept of empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52-61
Number of pages10
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Empahy, mirror neurons


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