Heinz Kohut defines empathy as the capacity to think and feel oneself into
the inner life of another (Kohut 1984). For Kohut, analysis does not cure
by way of making the contents of the unconscious known to the subject.
It cures through transmuting internalization, in which the analyst’s em-
pathy is internalized (Alford 1991, 27; Kohut 1984). Does this account of
moral spectatorship advocate the sort of empathetic looking and listening
introduced in the first chapter and described in the textual readings that
followed? No. Does it therefore critique and condemn moral spectatorship?
No. Moral spectatorship is a set of practices film theory can use to work
on and through. But to work on a set of practices critically means neither to
advocate for that sort of practice nor to denigrate its terms and its agents.
If the tone, throughout this volume, seems ambivalent, and sometimes even
sympathetic, toward its objects and actors, this is the effect of a wish that
film theory might move beyond performing at either end of the critical spec-
trum of advocacy and derision with regard to viewing practices.
To put in order some of the ideas behind the readings of empathetic look-
ing and listening described in the previous chapters, this conclusion offers
a more extended discussion of the meaning of “moral” in Moral Spectator-
ship, and the concept of empathy that informs the model of empathetic
identification introduced in this book.
C O N C L U S I O N
O N E M P A T H Y A N D M O R A L
S P E C T A T O R S H I P
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