Intellectual Empathy

Critical Thinking for Social Justice
Maureen Linker
A guide for facilitating discussions about socially divisive issues for students, educators, business managers, and community leaders


Intellectual Empathy provides a step-by-step method for facilitating discussions of socially divisive issues. Maureen Linker, a philosophy professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn, developed Intellectual Empathy after more than a decade of teaching critical thinking in metropolitan Detroit, one of the most racially and economically divided urban areas, at the crossroads of one of the Midwest’s largest Muslim communities. The skills acquired through Intellectual Empathy have proven to be significant for students who pursue careers in education, social work, law, business, and medicine.

Now, Linker shows educators, activists, business managers, community leaders—anyone working toward fruitful dialogues about social differences—how potentially transformative conversations break down and how they can be repaired. Starting from Socrates’s injunction know thyself, Linker explains why interrogating our own beliefs is essential. In contrast to traditional approaches in logic that devalue emotion, Linker acknowledges the affective aspects of reasoning and how emotion is embedded in our understanding of self and other. Using examples from classroom dialogues, online comment forums, news media, and diversity training workshops, readers learn to recognize logical fallacies and critically, yet empathically, assess their own social biases, as well as the structural inequalities that perpetuate social injustice and divide us from each other.

“Linker accomplishes what so many of us struggle with daily in our teaching and research: a nuanced and dynamic balance between focusing on the structural forces that produce inequalities and the everyday interactions that sustain them.”
—Patrick R. Grzanka, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

“Being reasonable can require fairness and even justice. That connection between critical thinking and social justice often gets lip service (from educators, liberatory scholars, and social justice activists), but it has never received the degree of attention it finds in Intellectual Empathy. Linker’s book stands on its own as a practical and scholarly guide to reasoning that addresses the difficult—and sometimes seemingly impossible—problem of reasoning together when people have very different viewpoints and social status. The complexities and sensitivities in reasoning across social differences that Linker attends to make her book a successor to Allan G. Johnson’s Privilege, Power, and Difference. Intellectual Empathy can help anyone who wants to know how to reason fairly with different people; it’s that accessible. Yet the book’s academic thoroughness makes it also an important work in social epistemology.”
—Catherine E. Hundleby, University of Windsor

Cover image: © DrAfter123 / iStock

Maureen Linker is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan–Dearborn; she received the University Distinguished Teaching Award and the Susan B. Anthony Award for advancing the cause of women.

Praise / Awards

  • "Linker’s writing style is conversational and engaging, and her impeccable integration of scholarship with compelling, multi-layered contemporary examples and case studies makes it an excellent resource for theorists."
    --Debra Jackson, Teaching Philosophy
  • "Linker’s book introduces a framework of analytic philosophy to intergroup dialogue, balancing accessibility and theoretical rigor—suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and clinicians."
    --David S. Byers, Smith College Studies in Social Work

Look Inside

News, Reviews, Interviews

Read: Maureen Linker in The Michigan Journal, Dearborn, MI (Link) | 10/14/2015

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 240pp.
  • 1 figure, 1 photo.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07262-0

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  • $65.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05262-2

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  • $30.95 U.S.

  • Audio Download
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-00373-0

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  • $7.99 U.S.

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