Paul Bloom, psychologist and Yale professor, argues that empathy is a bad thing—that it makes the world worse. While we've been taught that putting yourself in another's shoes cultivates compassion, it actually blinds you to the long-term consequences of your actions. In this animated interview from The Atlantic, we hear Bloom’s case for why the world needs to ditch empathy.
Video by The Atlantic
- Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Bloom's misuse of empathy creates a problem, namely, that he's wrong.
Empathy, deep and real empathy, isn't done for the purpose of self, "to get a buzz out of it", but for another - to understand and share in the pain they are suffering. To connect with them, for their sake. Not ours.
Perhaps the reason why we care about the baby in the well is because it's here, in front of us, and we can do something about it. The war is over there, untouchable . . . what possible difference can we make? For many of us, not much.
But we can save the child in the well.
"Selfish moralizing" is an issue worth discussing and probably one we should be against, but not empathy.
Empathy breaks down the walls of diversity, allowing us to "understand and share the feelings of another." It asks us to think not of ourselves, but of others - which is never a bad thing.
But Blooms is right, "If [we] really want to make the world better, spend less time trying to maximize [our] own altruistic joy." But then he says, "And in a more cold-blooded way think, 'how can I help other people?'"
And the answer to that Mr. Bloom is this: by being warm-blooded, and empathetic.