Paul Bloom: The Case Against Empathy

Empathy research is thriving these days. Several new books enthusiastically champion an increase in empathy as a cure for humanity’s ills. This enthusiasm may be misplaced, however.


In 2008, Karina Encarnacion, an eight year-old girl from Missouri, wrote to President-elect Barack Obama with some advice about what kind of dog he should get for his daughters. She also suggested that he enforce recycling and ban unnecessary wars. Obama wrote to thank her, and offered some advice of his own: “If you don’t already know what it means, I want you to look up the word ‘empathy’ in the dictionary. I believe we don’t have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that.

This wasn’t the first time Obama had spoken up for empathy.