Huck Finn the Inverse Akratic: Empathy and Justice
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An inverse akratic act is one who believes X, all things considered, is the correct act, and yet performs ~X, where ~X is the correct act. A famous example of such a person is Huck Finn. He believes that he is wrong in helping Jim, and yet continues to do so. In this paper I investigate Huck’s nature to see why he performs such acts contrary to his beliefs. In doing so, I explore the nature of empathy and show how powerful Huck’s empathic feelings are. Drawing from Martin L. Hoffman, I show the relationship between empathy and a principle of justice. This relationship leads to Huck acting virtuously, as Rosalind Hursthouse maintains.
KeywordsEmpathy Justice Moral Psychology Inverse Akrasia Hursthouse
I would like to thank an anonymous reviewer from Ethical Theory and Moral Practice for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. I would also like to give a special thanks to Nancy Snow for all of our lively discussions, her insight into the nature of empathy and helpful written comments on earlier drafts of this paper.