Cultivating empathy is no cure-all

Empathy, the ability to actively understand and share the feelings of others, is the hot new thing. As if each of us doesn’t have enough discomfort in our lives, it’s now incumbent on us to take on others’ in order to make us better — take your pick — employees, CEOs, students or political candidates.

Much like the medical myth of having to drink 64 ounces of water for maximal health, the empathy-miracle folklore is starting to permeate our culture, and thank goodness there are people who are brave enough to argue against it.

In The Atlantic essay “The New Fiction of Solitude,” Nicholas Dames, a Columbia University humanities professor, writes about how, in a relentlessly connected age, we might need to look to fiction to help us cultivate the separate, private self.


 Esther J. Cepeda