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What Does Empathy Look Like?

Non Satis Scire 2016: Empathy Through A Personal Lens


What does empathy look like? The question drives this issue of Non Satis Scire for two reasons. Empathy is all over the news these days, though we won’t attempt to answer why that is, and it’s also on our minds here on campus. In a way, it’s always been on our minds at Hampshire. Empathy was written into the making of the College, even if the word itself wasn’t written into the founding text of that name. And it’s right up front, in the preface: “The College is committed to a view of liberal education as a vehicle for the realization of self in society. To this end, it will try to help each student gain a greater grasp of the range and nature of the human condition, past, present, and possible future.”

As we’ve discussed in these pages before, Hampshire has been studying the traits of students who thrive here and finding that, among their other qualities, these young people exhibit high levels of empathy. The researchers say they don’t yet know what that means—empathy is a big word and the studies began just last year—but the work progresses. For our small part, in this issue we checked in on some alums, students, and faculty, looking for insights on empathy as expressed through their lives and creative pursuits. If these add dimension to Hampshire’s investigations, great. If they shed light on why empathy is back in the news, all the better. Almost 50 years after our founding, we’re still concerned with self in society, the range and nature of the human condition.

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