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A Science of Human Nature?

Philosophical Disputes at the Interface of Natural and Social Science

Riana Betzler

PhD Student

I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at Yale University, where I did many experiments investigating visual perception, language acquisition, and causal reasoning in human adults, Rhesus macaque monkeys, and Capuchin monkeys. I then completed my MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, where I worked primarily on issues of mechanistic explanation in philosophy of psychology. My current research is on empathy as a fascinating case for exploring issues of nature, culture, and their interaction. More specifically, I am trying to untangle some conceptual confusions about empathy by proposing a genealogical account that takes into consideration the complexity of empathy as a psychological capacity as a concept instantiated differently across multiple cultural circumstances. I hope that this genealogical account will also facilitate consideration of the value of empathy within these various cultural contexts. 




  • Edwards, B. J., Rottman, B. M., Shankar, M., Betzler, R., Chituc, V., et al. (2014). 'Do Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus apella) Diagnose Causal Relations in the Absence of a Direct Reward?',  PLoS ONE, 9, p. e88595, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088595.



  • Betzler, R. 'Empathy, Measurement, and Medicine', Interdisciplinary Network on Sympathy, Empathy, and Imagination Meeting, Oxford, 20 October 2014.


  • Betzler, R.‘What is Empathy? A Genealogical Account’, The Moral Domain: Conceptual Issues in Moral Psychology, Vilnius University, 9-11 October 2014.

  • Betzler, R. ‘What is Empathy? A Genealogical Account’, European Society for the Philosophy and Psychology Conference, 16-19 September 2014.

  • Betzler, R. ‘What is Empathy? A Genealogical Account’, HPS Philosophy Workshop, Cambridge, 16 May 2014.

  • Betzler, R. ‘Statistical Learning as a Mechanism’, International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science 2013, Montpellier, 11 July 2013.