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Regarding Pained Sympathy and Sympathy Pains: Reason, Morality, and Empathy in the Civil Adjudication of Pain

23 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2007  

Jody Lynee Madeira

Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington

Abstract

This Essay considers the legal propriety of the empathic responses of jurors to suffering plaintiffs. To that end, Part II first explicates the legal contours of a tension between what is experiential or physical (objective) and what is expressionistic or non-physical (subjective). This tension is a foundational jurisprudential concern in personal injury litigation because the subjective is seen to threaten the rule of law: the perceived primacy of reason and logic. Thus, this tension is also what the parties' attorneys seek to exploit and what the court seeks to constrain. Part III explores why an empathic identification is indeed a reasoned and moral response to pain, although it is this subjective response to pain that courts find most threatening. Not only do emotions such as empathy have cognitive and social roots, the anti-empathic Stoic philosophical tradition which informed the conception of the rule of law is incompatible with contemporary social conceptions of justice. Part IV shows how law incorporates subjectivity into personal injury litigation by creating an intensely moral consequence for plaintiffs who falsely claim to be in pain: the assignment of a malingering label. This Essay concludes in Part V that recognizing the relational connections made possible through the expression of pain is essential in a disjointed cultural present that is suffused by pain-full imagery.

Keywords: sympathy, empathy, pain, rational, reason, personal injury

Suggested Citation

Madeira, Jody Lynee, Regarding Pained Sympathy and Sympathy Pains: Reason, Morality, and Empathy in the Civil Adjudication of Pain. South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 58, No. 2, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1000432

Jody Lynee Madeira (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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