York St John University



JSS 3.1

Past News

JSS 3.1 Martin Buber, Empathy and Research Practice: A Response to Rachel Cope

by Professor Julian Stern, York St John University, UK
Journal for the Study of Spirituality 3, no. 1, 2013, pp. 67-72

Researching religion and spirituality raises issues about the position of the researcher and the relationship between researcher and researched. These can be explored using Martin Buber’s idea of dialogue involving Realphantasie, ‘imagining the real’. Dialogue requires a strong form of empathy, which can take place notwithstanding profound disagreement, whereas a more dialectical progress to agreement is more associated with sympathy, feeling another person’s feelings. Sympathy cannot be required of researchers, but empathy, as described by Buber, is a reasonable expectation of us all.

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