In a divided world, empathy is not the solution, it is the problem.
We think of empathy – the ability to feel the suffering of others for ourselves – as the ultimate source of all good behaviour. But while it inspires care and protection in personal relationships, it has the opposite effect in the wider world. As the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows, we feel empathy most for those we find attractive and who seem similar to us and not at all for those who are different, distant or anonymous.
Empathy therefore biases us in favour of individuals we know while numbing us to the plight of thousands. Guiding us expertly through the experiments, case studies and arguments on all sides, Paul Bloom ultimately shows that some of our worst decisions – in charity, child-raising, criminal justice, climate change and war – are motivated by this wolf in sheep's clothing.
Brilliantly argued, urgent and humane, Against Empathy overturns widely held assumptions to reveal one of the most profound yet overlooked sources of human conflict.
About the Author
Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at Yale University. He is an internationally recognised expert on the psychology of language, social reasoning, morality and art. His previous books include Just Babies and How Pleasure Works, and he has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, New Yorker and the Guardian. Bloom has won several awards for his research, articles and teaching, and his ‘Introduction to Psychology’ class was one of seven selected by Yale to be made available worldwide. His TED talks have been viewed 2.8 million times.
"Wonderfully humane, lucid and entertaining ... a brave and necessary tract for the times" * Telegraph *
"A great, provocative book ... that will legitimately change how you think about the world and your own sense of morality" * The New York Times *
"Bloom dismantles the argument that empathy is the basis of all morality ... Empathy, it turns out, is sentimental, superficial and racist" * New Statesman *
"The title may shock, but this is a book of calm reason and expansive compassion. It's also a pleasure to read: warm, lucid, and thought-provoking" -- Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
"I couldn't put this brilliantly argued book down. Engaging and witty, learned and stim-ulating, provocative and packed with cutting-edge findings, Against Empathy is sure to start many important debates" * Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother *