A1 Journal article (refereed)
Imaginative Resistance and Empathic Resistance (2020)

Szanto, T. (2020). Imaginative Resistance and Empathic Resistance. Topoi, 39 (4), 791-802. doi:10.1007/s11245-019-09642-9

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Publication details

All authors or editors: Szanto, Thomas

Journal or series: Topoi

ISSN: 0167-7411

eISSN: 1572-8749

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 39

Issue number: 4

Pages range: 791-802

Publisher: Springer Netherlands

Publication country: Netherlands

Publication language: English

DOI: http://doi.org/10.1007/s11245-019-09642-9

Open Access: Publication channel is not openly available


In the past few decades, a growing number of philosophers have tried to explain the phenomenon of imaginative resistance (IR), or why readers often resist the invitation of authors to imagine morally deviant fictional scenarios. In this paper, I critically assess a recent proposal to explain IR in terms of a failure of empathy, and present a novel explanation. I do so by drawing on Peter Goldie’s narrative account of empathic perspective-taking, which curiously has so far been neglected in the IR-literature. I argue that, in some cases, IR is due to a partial confusion of two kinds of imaginative perspective-taking towards a fictional character: an internal, genuinely empathic, perspective-taking, on the one hand, and an external, crypto-empathic, stance that can be characterized as in-her-shoes-imagining, on the other. I argue that, in the cases at issue, IR is not so much a resistance to imagining but, rather, to empathically enacting an evildoer’s moral and phenomenal first-person perspective. I conclude by considering some more general lessons that follow from my account for what has recently been called sadistic empathy and point to an unresolved issue for future thinking about IR.

Keywords: imagination; fiction; empathy

Free keywords: imaginative resistance; empathic perspective-taking; Peter Goldie

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Last updated on 2020-18-10 at 21:26