MA, University of Chicago
Of what importance is ‘sympathy’ for the study of politics, and how should it be conceptualized? What role should this sentiment play in relations between political elites and those they represent? How does sympathy figure into one’s relation to other groups? The work of W.E.B. Du Bois offers complex, unexplored answers to these questions, arising from the political urgency and seemingly intractable rift of the “color line.” I argue that sympathy is a dominant, unifying theme in Du Bois’s work with significant, surprising implications for his understanding of the proper relationship between leaders and those they represent; social harmony between groups; the moral life of the political actor; and for the social and cultural advancement of American society as a whole. While my interpretation of Du Bois’s account will form the bulk of my research, I will also highlight its distinctiveness in contrast to other compelling theories of sympathy, notably those of Adam Smith, David Hume, and (in a different way) Hegel.