Summary of Against Empathy

Looking for the book?
We have the summary! Get the key insights in just 10 minutes.

Against Empathy book summary
Start getting smarter:
or see our plans

Rating

8 Overall

8 Importance

9 Innovation

8 Style


Recommendation

Cognitive psychologist Paul Bloom believes “empathy” often causes more suffering than it cures. He leverages a heady, entertaining combination of philosophy, scientific research and anecdotes to argue that empathy-driven decisions frequently run counter to reason. They lead people to indulge their biases, justify violence and sacrifice the long-term good of the many for the short-term gains of the few. Bloom dismantles claims that favor empathy in several arenas, including charity, politics, medicine and parenthood. He offers a concurrent argument for “rational compassion.” getAbstract recommends his exegesis to forward-thinking humanitarians and those seeking a better understanding of the ethics of emotion, rationality and altruism. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • How “empathy” differs from “rational compassion,”
  • Why empathy is a poor basis for decision making and
  • How unchecked empathy causes harm.
 

About the Author

Paul Bloom, PhD, is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research focuses on moral psychology, child development and social reasoning. His previous books include Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil.

 

Summary

“The Power of Empathy”

Empathy – the capacity to experience life as another person experiences it – is often touted as the primary agent of morality and as humanity’s greatest tool for bettering the world. The cry for “more empathy” arises in the face of violence, oppression, and other ills. If “your pain becomes my pain,” the argument goes, people will identify with and help one another. The modern tendency to exalt empathy coincides with a number of related beliefs, including the notion that humans aren’t rational beings and the idea that reasoning applies only to moral decision making after the fact. Emotion does affect decision making, but it doesn’t need to prevent or get ahead of rational thought. People can recognize that racial discrimination is wrong, even if some find that it may feel instinctive. Most people acknowledge that you don’t need to empathize with a drowning child to attempt a rescue. Moral action can – and often does – stem from more than just empathy.


More on this topic

By the same author

The Origins of Pleasure
The Origins of Pleasure
7
Can Prejudice Ever Be a Good Thing?
Can Prejudice Ever Be a Good Thing?
8

Customers who read this summary also read

Doctors Have Become Less Empathetic, but Is It Their Fault?
Doctors Have Become Less Empathetic, but Is It Their Fault?
7
There Is No Good Card for This
There Is No Good Card for This
9
How to Build (and Rebuild) Trust
How to Build (and Rebuild) Trust
8
Never Split the Difference
Never Split the Difference
8
Humble Consulting
Humble Consulting
7
Negotiating the Impossible
Negotiating the Impossible
8

Related Channels

Comment on this summary