SCSMI2017 Helsinki has ended
The annual conference of the Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI) welcomes you to the Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, June 11th – 14th, 2017

SCSMI2017 Helsinki program is under construction and changes are to occur. Meanwhile you may complete your personal information with a photo and some tags, so the other attendees and speakers will get to know more of you and your interests, and vice versa.

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Tuesday, June 13 • 16:30 - 17:30
LP Robert Blanchet. The misunderstanding of “understanding”: Empathizing with film characters on the level of action and motivation

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Limited Capacity seats available

I will argue that when spectators say, or think, that they can understand a morally flawed character, such as Walter White from “Breaking Bad”, they are not referring to a simulatory process of mind reading, or shared emotions, as most contemporary theories of empathy would have it. Instead, I propose that what we mean when we use expressions like “I can understand that Walter lied to his family” or “it’s understandable that he went into drug trafficking” is that the character’s reasons for acting, at least in part, justify or excuse his action, while, all things considered, we remain critical of the action from our own point of view. However, to arrive at the acknowledgement that I, too, can accept at least some of the other’s reasons as good ones, I have to focus my attention on what drove him to act as he did in the first place, rather than just appraise that action from the point of view of how it affects my own concerns (my goals, my moral principles etc.). It is this seemingly trivial stepping out of my egocentric perspective on the world, and mental focusing on the other that makes the process of understanding an empathic act, according to my theory. Hence, I reject the view that empathy requires me to imagine something about myself. Secondly, I will show how this theory about empathy on the level of action and motivation can contribute to the solution of the sympathy for the devil paradox.

avatar for Robert Blanchet

Robert Blanchet

University of Zurich
Robert Blanchet teaches at the Institute of Cinema Studies at the University of Zurich where he is working on his dissertation on a new theory of empathy. He is the author of Blockbuster: Ästhetik, Ökonomie und Geschichte des postklassischen Hollywoodkinos (2003), the co-editor... Read More →

Tuesday June 13, 2017 16:30 - 17:30 EEST
A-301 Room, Töölö Campus, Aalto University (3rd floor) Runeberginkatu 14-16, Helsinki