David Brooks has an interesting essay in the New York Times called The Limits of Empathy. In it he discusses the wealth of research published lately on how empathy works as a psychological response, and makes a case that it can’t and shouldn’t be considered the true foundation for morality. This is because the reaction of empathy doesn’t always kick in when it ideally should, to the extent that it should:
Empathy orients you toward moral action, but it doesn’t seem to help much when that action comes at a personal cost. You may feel a pang for the homeless guy on the other side of the street, but the odds are that you are not going to cross the street to give him a dollar.