‘I Feel Your Pain!’ The Surprisingly Selfish Origins of Empathy

Empathy, the ability to identify and to some extent feel another person’s emotions, is sometimes considered a sign of weakness; a fault that can interfere with the kind of upward mobility considered an ideal of a capitalist society. In his role as the amoral businessman Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film Wall Street, Michael Douglas famously stated “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind (…)”


However, with the exception of psychopaths (interestingly enough, some people theorize that psychopathy is an adaptive trait in corporate environments), people all share some degree of empathy. It’s the basis of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you.