Taz and Empathy

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This article, written for the Taslitz Galaxy Conference at Howard Law School celebrating the life and work of Andrew Taslitz (Taz), will explore the elusive concept of empathy, the notion of empathic divides, and the challenges of empathic accuracy, and will discuss Taz’s scholarship as an ongoing project of bridging empathic divides. Taz's project took many interrelated forms. One primary focus was on the dynamics of cognitive bias and self-deception, drawing on psychology, neuroscience and related disciplines. Taz’s scholarship keeps coming back to the question of the barriers to understanding the narrowness of one’s own perspective, and the barriers to grasping the different frameworks employed by others. It focuses, to take a few examples, on racial blindsight, gender bias, status quo bias, tunnel vision, the bias against the poor, harmful rape narratives, and the self-deception that can lead to date rape. Another primary focus is on identifying institutional reforms that will aid in overcoming these barriers. Empathy, along with respect for the dignity of others (another of his scholarly themes) were not only a primary focus of Taz's scholarship, but also the hallmarks of his relationships with others. He was the rare person whose scholarship and life were of a piece.