Empathy Notes #3: Empathy versus rationality?

Several weeks ago my good friend Miki Kashtan sent me two articles  – ”The Baby in the Well” by Paul Bloom and ”The Case Against Empathy” by David Harris-Gershon – that critically compare empathy with reason. 


These two essays maintain that empathy causes us to focus on the narrow needs of visibly suffering individuals – especially those who are like us or whom we know and love. This focus distracts us from broader or invisible suffering – and from the systemic causes of suffering – for which changes in policy, systems, culture, etc., are called for rather than our personal kindness and help. Therefore, suggest the essayists Paul Bloom and David Harris-Gershon, reason is a more dependable guide to our moral responses than empathy.

Tom Atlee