I think when I hear the word "empathy" I think about feelings. I realize this isn't the sole definition of the word, which is more broad to consider the though process and experiences as a whole of another person. In that sense I think you're right on both counts -- we want to write code that a future programmer will understand, and create an application that does what a user wants.
Though, I am uncertain about the future programmer. "require" is a strong word. Is empathy really required, or would following a strong set of clean coding rules and logic be sufficient?
(I have no doubt about the user. If you don't have empathy with them, your app will suck. And given the state of current UI's, I have to assume this lesson is lost on most UX designers.)
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