Against Empathy By Paul Bloom Book Review

Psychologist Paul Bloom makes the reasonable argument about the effects of empathy – trying to feel what other people feel, and its negative effects that often results in making the world worse.  Bloom defines terms and lays out a substantive case that empathy is not a vital catalyst for human morality.  That concern and compassion are better, particularly when making moral choices and public policy.

Bloom critiques the features of empathy. One is the spotlight effect that narrows a person’s focus often at the expense of others.  That one does not see all the ramifications of a decision with a narrow focus.

Empathy is a short-term solution, he argues that rational compassion takes a broader view and favors the long-term solution.  Compassion is defined by Bloom as “simply caring for people, wanting them to thrive,” a kindness that is separate from empathy.  Compassion is not perfect but has fewer problems than empathy. He argues connivingly that compassion is a better guide to our everyday moral decisions.  Bloom looks at empathy in diverse situations from intimate relations, violence, war…  Against Empathy is thought provoking.

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion is available at Amazon.

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