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Should Empathy Play any Role in the Interpretation of Constitutional Rights?



This paper explores the role that empathy can play in the interpretation of constitutional rights. It starts by analyzing the complex concept of empathy, comparing it with similar yet distinct concepts such as projection, sympathy and emotional contagion, then it discusses the widespread distrust of empathy among lawyers and legal thinkers. It will be argued that empathy can play a significant role in the interpretation of constitutional rights, mostly in identifying the interests and needs put forward in the claims and counterclaims of the parties. In the final section, the impact of empathetic judging on judicial minimalism will be briefly discussed.

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