This is a terrific resource! Aaltola provides a comprehensive taxonomy of empathy that is important for animal ethics and beyond.
One of the key limitations of animal ethics has been the way that the available theories separate justifications for overcoming anthropocentrism from our motivations for doing so. Rights have been pivotal, and feelings marginal. Our care, emotional responsiveness, and empathy, have been written out of the picture. Elisa Aaltola’s book serves as an important corrective. It is a major contribution to animal ethics.
Varieties of Empathy is a straightforward philosophical book about ethics, and despite the title, little content is devoted in a practical sense to ethical actions toward animals. Aaltola (Univ. of Eastern Finland) takes readers through the problems that lie behind human views of animals. Present here is the danger of anthropocentricism: seeing animals as being like humans and interpreting animals' actions through the lens of what people would feel or do. But Aaltola feels strongly that cognitive empathy, or thinking about animals’ minds, does not lead to true care. Instead, she sees affective empathy, or feeling for an animal, as central to true consideration and introduces the idea of the psychopath as someone who understands the feelings of others but is simply not affected by them. In the end, she suggests, what people truly need is higher-order reflective empathy, which helps limit the influence of culture and politics and guide the use of cognitive and affective empathy. Thus, this work is not an outline of correct actions but a guide to how people ought to feel as a foundation for those actions.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, and faculty.