Reading fiction books can make more empathic people of us
16 March 2023
Jeannie Kidera, writing for Big Think:
The capacity for empathy — to first identify and then understand and share in someone else’s feelings — is largely held as a virtue these days. Yet, philosophically speaking, there is a bit of a knowledge problem that makes being naturally empathetic a struggle. Why? As poet John Keats put it, “Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced.”
So how can someone else’s perspective and emotions ever become real enough for us to develop empathy? Reading fiction may provide an answer. Research suggests that fictional books may effectively be empathy-building tools, offering us the closest we can get to first-hand knowledge of someone else’s experience.
To read a chapter out of someone’s life story is to truly walk a mile in their shoes.