On Empathy

Paul Bloom argues that empathy has its drawbacks. It's biased, innumerate, concrete, and myopic. Don't believe it? Consider the reactions to the Newton mass shooting as compared to shootings in Chicago.  It's called the identifiable victim effect. We're drawn to some individuals more than others. We respond more empathetically to people like us. And because empathy is focused on individuals and insensitive to numbers, it's more susceptible to bias.

Okay empathy can be misguided, but isn't it better than nothing? He believes that's mistaken - because he argues that it's focused on current costs at the expense of future costs. 

What's an alternative?  Peter Singer has started a movement called Effective Altruism - it involves both the head and the heart.


Additional reading:

Daniel Batson - Altruism in Humans

Frans De Waal - The Age of Empathy

Simon Baron-Cohen - The Science of Evil


Leslie Jamison - The Empathy Exams