If it’s possible to hear resonances of empathy in sincerity, where else can it be found?
On the recommendation of my dear friend Jesse Birch, I have come upon Teresa Brennan’s The Transmission of Affect. With just a cursory reading, Brennan’s proposal of affect being those cases of feeling another’s feeling resonates with a common definition of empathy as being exactly that: feeling another’s feeling. Granted, Brennan seems to have a grander scale in mind as when “the ‘atmosphere’ or environment literally gets into the individual” (1). Could the difference between empathy and affect be this progression out from a relation between individuals, to a relation between an individual and their surroundings?
After having tried for a long time to adequately define empathy, one notion that sticks with me is that empathy should somehow increase interdependencies–our empathetic relation implies an understanding of the world that now requires the vital energy each of us represent. For me, empathy is this particular and elemental exchange. However far empathy or affect may take us from our self, it is clear that Brennan and I share the assumption that emotions go “farther than the skin” (2).