David A. Welch » The case against the case against empathy

To begin, Bloom conflates at least four distinct psychological phenomena and calls them all “empathy.”  Admittedly, both dictionaries and common usage aren’t good at keeping these distinct, largely because English is a living language and dictionary definitions eventually follow common usage.  But our job as scholars is to clear up confusion, not promote it.  Here are the four phenomena, with my preferred labels for each:


Empathy.  This is the capacity to see the world from another’s perspective.  It is merely to understand, not to agree with.  Reagan and Gorbachev managed empathy, in the sense that they both came to understand that the other feared nuclear war more than anything else, but neither made a convert of the other. Sympathy.  This adds to cognitive understanding both cognitive and emotional agreement: you both understand and share.  Reagan and Thatcher  did not merely empathize with each other; they sympathized.Compassion…
David A. Welch