Your Unlearning Report

Stuart Vyse

For a skeptic, there is nothing more satisfying than discovering that some previously cherished truth has been overturned by new evidence. It is in that spirit that I offer the following Unlearning Report.

Empathy Is Bad

Everybody loves empathy. Former President Barack Obama often spoke about our “empathy deficit” and the need to “see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us” (Obama 2006). Amazon.com lists over 1,500 books with “empathy” in their titles or subtitles, and the Internet is replete with blogs and YouTube videos on the subject. Yes, everybody loves empathy—everybody except Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom.

It seems wrong to be against something so kind and well meaning as empathy, but in his new book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, Bloom builds a strong argument for empathy as a destructive emotion. He suggests that empathy is innumerate and myopic and that more good can be done by adopting “rational compassion,” a more detached form of caring.

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