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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Empathy, Schmempathy

By Tom Bartlett
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Originally posted November 27, 2016

No one argues in favor of empathy. That’s because no one needs to: Empathy is an unalloyed good, like sunshine or cake or free valet parking. Instead we bemoan lack of empathy and nod our heads at the notion that, if only we could feel the pain of our fellow man, then everything would be OK and humanity could, at long last, join hands together in song.

Bah, says Paul Bloom. In his new book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion (Ecco), Bloom argues that when it comes to helping one another, our emotions too often spoil everything. Instead of leading us to make smart decisions about how best to use our limited resources altruistically, they cause us to focus on what makes us feel good in the moment. We worry about the boy stuck in the well rather than the thousands of boys dying of malnutrition every day.

Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale University, calls on us to feel less and think more.

The interview is here.