Modern gnoseology is characterized by a tendency to revise basic concepts and issues of traditional theory of cognition. This is revealed in the analysis of integral cognition in the context of socio-cultural reality. The idea that knowledge is opposed to science and other types of cognitive activity are revised. The range of gnoseological research has become much wider. The notion of anthropological meaning has transformed the concept of "subject of cognition," the "abstract" subject of cognition giving way to the cognitive human being in the world of reality with the total set of existing phenomena.
The socio-cultural and anthropological viewpoints of cognition have made it possible to enrich and improve the methodological foundation of gnoseology. The description of variety and diversity of knowledge formation in the process of human activity and social interaction results in revealing new forms and means of cognition. The phenomenon of empathy, which is activated in the process of human activity, namely in interpersonal communication, is a mechanism of cognition. The phenomenon of empathy is the ability of a human being to understand the inner world of other human beings, i.e. their emotional state, to "penetrate-and-co-feel" the mood of another person.
However, despite a number of different studies of empathy, nowadays this phenomenon is not completely known yet. Thus there is no universal understanding of the nature of empathy and the essence of its action. There have been several attempts in history of philosophy to explain the phenomenon of empathy:
Phenomenologically, E. Husserl analyzed it describing the problem of inter-subjectivity; E. Stein used the concept while describing the phenomenon of religion; and M. Scheler studied it in the context of the theory of sympathy.
Hermeneutically, W. Dilthey treated empathy as the condition which made it possible to understand socio-cultural, human existence; H. Gadamer analyzed it in the context of ‘pre-cognition’; and P. Ricoeur studied it in the context of the interpretation conception.
Existentially, M. Buber researched the "I-You relations"; H. Marcel analyzed the notion of existence and inter-subjectivity; and M. Heidegger studied it in terms of "understanding-each-other existence".
What makes a common opinion of empathy in the diverse branches of philosophy is the understanding of empathy as a specific means of cognition that makes it possible to interfere in another reality (the object under study).
Based on modern gnoseology, this approach allows us to examine the phenomenon of empathy as a means of cognition, which makes it possible to get true information about the object under study. As a means of cognition, empathy possesses a specific feature, i.e. a concordant interception of reflexive and non-reflexive, which can be summed up as an integral pattern. The latter means that the phenomenon of empathy is a unity of sensory, rational, emotional and intuitive elements. Empathic cognition allows us not just to interfere in a human inner world, but to feel, to ‘co-identify’ with it for some period of time, to "understand by feelings" the emotions of another person, to reach the state of cognitive unity of being cognized and cognizing.
Such empathic processes as interfering, co-feeling, co-living, co-hearing into the object under study overcome the limits of rationality and make it possible to reach integral perception, which is a necessary condition of true knowledge. Considering this, the empathic means of cognition can be applicable not only in everyday life but also in academic studies (in cognition of specific objects, say, of history, arts, psychology, psychiatry), and scholarly creativity (the creative functions of empathy are necessary in the process of creation of something, getting new ideas, new approaches, and finally new knowledge). The issue discussed in this article reveals the need of studying the phenomenon of empathy in the context of modern gnoseology.