Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion
In a divided world, empathy is not the solution, it is the problem; a source of prejudice, not kindness. We think of empathy - the ability to feel the suffering of others for ourselves - as the ultimate source of all good behaviour. But while it inspires care and protection in personal relationships, it has the opposite effect in the wider world. As the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows, we feel empathy most for those we find attractive and who seem similar to us and not at all for those who are different, distant or anonymous. Empathy therefore biases us in favour of individuals we know while numbing us to the plight of thousands. Guiding us expertly through the experiments, case studies and arguments on all sides, Paul Bloom ultimately reveals that some of our worst decisions - in charity, child-raising, criminal justice, climate change and war - are motivated by this wolf in sheep's clothing. Brilliantly argued, urgent and humane, Against Empathy overturns widely held assumptions to reveal one of the most profound yet overlooked sources of human conflict. It demonstrates with absolute clarity that, when faced with moral decisions, we must choose reason and compassion, not empathy, as our guides.
"Brilliant, powerful, and provocative, Against Empathy is sure to be one of the most controversial books of our time" -- Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness "The title may shock, but this is a book of calm reason and expansive compassion. It's also a pleasure to read: warm, lucid, and thought-provoking" -- Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature "I couldn't put this brilliantly argued book down. Engaging and witty, learned and stim-ulating, provocative and packed with cutting-edge findings, Against Empathy is sure to start many important debates" Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother "Despite a near consensus about the merits of empathy, Paul Bloom shows that it is often just the warm embrace of prejudice - and, like anger, a reliable source of moral confusion. Against Empathy is a thrilling book, and reading it could well make you a better person" -- Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith "I went in a sceptic and emerged a convert ... one of the most thought-provoking, and ultimately convincing, books I've read in a long time" -- Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game "A brilliant, witty, and convincing defence of rational generosity against its pain-feeling detractors. Read this book and you will never think about empathy, goodness, or cold- blooded reason the same way again" Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning
Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at Yale University. He is an internationally recognised expert on the psychology of language, social reasoning, morality and art. His previous books include Just Babies and How Pleasure Works, and he has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, New Yorker and the Guardian. Bloom has won several awards for his research, articles and teaching, and his 'Introduction to Psychology' class was one of seven selected by Yale to be made available worldwide. His TED talks have been viewed 2.8 million times.