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Browsing by Subject "exemplarist moral theory"

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  • Salminen, Elina (2023)
    The thesis aims to show how cognitive empathy, i.e. rational perspective taking of others’ mental states, seems to be more productive in most human interactions than the natural, i.e. affective or emotional empathy, that we spontaneously tend to feel for those who are close or similar to us or for those who suffer. The thesis claims that people both with and without disabilities should be treated with case-by-case cognitive empathy, meaning that people without disabilities might sometimes need more empathy than people with disabilities. This thought and operating process that is called all-inclusive empathy, does not come naturally to most people but needs conscious practice and reflection, preferably from the early age. The term all-inclusive empathy refers not only to all kinds of people who need empathy, but also to all kinds of issues that raise the need for empathy in the beneficiary. This means that the need for empathy should always originate in the beneficiary, not in the empathizer. Related to empathy, the thesis introduces Linda Zagzebski's exemplarist moral theory (EMT), which suggests that we should not trust moral norms and rules but instead our feelings of admiration towards certain morally admirable people, i.e. exemplary figures, and then mirror that admiration with critical reflection. According to EMT, exemplary figures can be found anywhere; in real life, novels, films, plays, etc., and they guide us how to behave morally in each situation. Prerequisite for this guidance is that our admiration towards them should stand up to critical reflection over time. Concerning the literature studies, the thesis examines R. J. Palacio’s two youth novels, Wonder and Auggie and Me – Three Wonder Stories, and shows how the novels implement the above mentioned themes; cognitive and all-inclusive empathy, and exemplarist moral theory. The novels combine all-inclusive empathy and EMT by revealing some characters as exemplary figures and showing how they exemplify cognitive and all-inclusive empathy in the story. The examination of the novels clarifies how the theoretical concepts of EMT and all-inclusive empathy make a difference when implemented in real life situations and are distinct from other related theories such as other moral theories and the concepts of affective and emotional empathy. The overall aim of the thesis is to enhance well-being of people both with and without disabilities by encouraging them to search inspirational exemplary figures and practice cognitive and all-inclusive empathy. Furthermore, the thesis claims that R. J. Palacio’s two novels could be used in character education in schools and other educational and free-time contexts, because novel reading in general enhances empathy, and especially the novels that represent affective perspective taking, i.e. an attitude that combines emotional involvement and cognitive process, could be particularly effective in character education. Palacio’s novels implement affective perspective taking by evoking diverse feelings in a reader, who then sees how the exemplary figures in the story deal with their own emotions and transform them into moral actions. A suggestion for future research in the fields of empathy, literary studies and character education is to search and build a database for novels with exemplary figures who carry out all-inclusive empathy through affective perspective taking.