Is empathy bad?

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Lance Kennedy
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Is empathy bad?

Post by Lance Kennedy » Fri Feb 17, 2017 9:32 pm ... st-empathy

I got onto this topic by reading an article in New Scientist by Professor of Psychology (Yale University) Paul Bloom. He has written a book called "Against Empathy'. In that, he points out the negatives in empathy. He is not actually against empathy, but suggests that it is not an unmitigated good, and has times and situations when it can be harmful. Some examples.

Too much empathy for one person can lead to the attitude that one person is more important than one hundred.

Too much empathy for the sufferings of one or more people can lead to a desire for violent reprisals against those who harm. Empathy for minorities can stir up hatred against societal groups whose members sometimes harm those minorities.

Empathy is too selective. It is easy to feel empathy for those who are attractive and likeable, but what of those who are just as deserving, but unattractive, or too distant?

There have been studies in which volunteers are taught to be compassionate without feeling empathy. Those people become kinder, and enjoy helping more than those who are solely motivagted by empathy. This makes true empathy a bit redundant.

So what do you think? Is Prof. Bloom onto something? Should empathy be moderated? Or is this all wrong?

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Re: Is empathy bad?

Post by Poodle » Fri Feb 17, 2017 10:51 pm

Hang on ...

Can we first establish whether it's even possible to feel compassion with no empathy? A reference to those studies might help, Lance.

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Re: Is empathy bad?

Post by TJrandom » Fri Feb 17, 2017 11:26 pm

Lance Kennedy wrote:... So what do you think? Is Prof. Bloom onto something? Should empathy be moderated? Or is this all wrong?

OK, I did read it, albeit quickly. And I didn`t find cause to avoid empathy. Recognise some pitfalls, yes – to maybe empathise and take action more wisely, but not to avoid it altogether. Some limited value to his contribution? Of course, but also potential to justify a lack of empathy in scoundrels, like Trump.

edit.. caught my spelling mistake before Gord lowered the hammer....
Last edited by TJrandom on Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is empathy bad?

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Sat Feb 18, 2017 12:27 am

Who the {!#%@} thought unreasoning empathy was a good thing?
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Re: Is empathy bad?

Post by Tom Palven » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:54 am

I like this statement that I've seen on the web:

You don't need religion to have morals or ethics.

If you can't determine right from wrong you lack empathy, not religion.

Apparently the author is unknown.

Off hand Paul Bloom sounds like a utilitarian lunatic, but I need more info.
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Re: Is empathy bad?

Post by ElectricMonk » Sat Feb 18, 2017 4:03 am

Paul Bloom refers to cases were empathy produces negative results.
For example, people are more likely to donate after seeing a picture of one suffering child than seeing one with two suffering children.
He basically calls compassion "rational empathy".

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Re: Is empathy bad?

Post by OlegTheBatty » Sat Feb 18, 2017 10:30 pm

Empathy provides information. How one uses that information is up to them. Blaming empathy is blaming the messenger.
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