Empathic Static: Empathy and Conflict, with Simon Baron-Cohen and Virginie Despentes

Matt Phillips

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The concept of ‘empathy’ has attracted a great deal of interest in recent decades, across academic disciplines as well as the broader public sphere, with many identifying in this human capacity the key to a more peaceful future. This article focuses in its first half on one such vision of empathy, proposed by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty (2011), which argues for and celebrates empathy’s ability to resolve conflict. I here put pressure on this idea, and in the second half, through a close reading of a chapter in Virginie Despentes’s recent Vernon Subutex trilogy (2015–17), suggest ways in which the experience of empathy might be rife with interference, and might be understood as both conflicted (tearing in opposing directions) and conflictual (staking in and willing on conflict).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationParasites
Subtitle of host publicationExploitation and Interference in French Thought and Culture
EditorsMatt Phillips, Tomas Weber
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherPeter Lang
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78707-867-3, 978-1-78707-866-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-0343-2266-9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

Publication series

NameModern French Identities
PublisherPeter Lang
ISSN (Print)1422-9005

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