Against Empathy — Really?

Every now and again, folks send me stuff about empathy.  Such was the case with this piece below, a short animation published on the Atlantic ‘s website, and titled Against Empathy.  The video is put together by the animator, with content and narration by Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom.  

It’s pretty short (less than 3 min.) and in it, Bloom equates empathy to selfish moralizing. In the course of the video, he knocks charitable giving, saying that empathy leads to people giving small amounts of money to lots of charity, which causes the various charities to lose money, instead of the ostensibly dispassionate, non-empathetic giver who is a more effective altruist.


 Bloom goes on to say that charities don’t know what they’re doing in the context of fundraising (he knows, but not them) and that empathy is fundamentally impulsive and destroys consequential behavior.

There’s more — he also points to leaders psychopathically using empathy against us, and then says that having empathy starts wars, which end up in lots of people dying.  If we go to war against ISIS, he argues, it will be because of empathy and wanting to help the people in Syria.  But there will be many more victims than people save, and we essentially won’t care.


Chuck Pezeshki