Empathy and evaluation: Understanding the private meanings of behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper makes three points. First, empathy cannot be considered an epistemic basis for qualitative research and evaluation. Second, it is, however, a valuable method for understanding the private meanings of words and deeds. Third, this method is not completely reliable for purposes of what Popper called refutation, but is useful in what he dubbed scientific conjecture or the generation of theory. Basic researchers will need to take the necessary steps to subject empathetic hunches to critical examination. However, owing to the exigencies of action settings and decision-making, disciplined conjectures are sometimes the most that evaluators can hope to record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-134
Number of pages12
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • empathy
  • evaluation
  • qualitative inquiry
  • understanding
  • verstehen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy


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