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Empathy and Inter-religious Imagination

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Even though empathy plays a central role in inter-religious imagination, the notion of empathy has become all but anathema in the study of religions, associated as it is with Romantic hermeneutics and with the early phenomenology of religion. This article revisits some of the early phenomenological approaches to the problem of empathy in order to explore their continuing import for the question of the possibility of entering imaginatively into the religious worldview and experience of another tradition and understanding it from within. Even though the religious experience of the other always remains beyond the purview of someone not belonging to that tradition, the notion of empathy continues to emphasize the epistemic priority of that experience in the process of inter-religious dialogue, thus stretching the imagination to resonate with new and possibly enriching forms of religious life.

Affiliations: 1: Boston College


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