Our feelings of empathy, as Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has shown, arise from our “fast” thinking system. We feel the correctness of these compassionate feelings in the same way we feel the correctness of 2 + 2 = 4. Snap. It’s true. It’s obvious. It’s right. More than that, our decisions about what’s right often arise from what we’re raised to believe. That’s why George Washington could have more than half the blood drained from his body as he lay mortally ill at age 67. Everybody knew, after all, that bloodletting was salutary.
By Barbara Oakley