Against Empathy - Summary and Key Ideas

Against Empathy argues that while empathy is often perceived as a driving force for good, it can lead to irrational decisions, bias, and even violence. The book suggests that we should rely more on reason and compassion, rather than empathy, to make moral decisions.

The target group for this book is likely individuals interested in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, particularly those curious about the role and impact of empathy in personal relationships, decision-making, and societal issues.

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Against Empathy

Key ideas


Empathy, while a valuable human capacity, can bias our decisions and lead us astray when used as a moral guide.


Empathy, while often seen as a moral compass, is revealed to be a biased, innumerate, and potentially violent force, limited by its narrow focus and susceptibility to external influences.

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While empathy fosters connection in relationships, it can also lead to bias, shortsightedness, and harm, suggesting the need for a more balanced approach to understanding and caring for others.

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Empathy, while often a force for good, can also fuel violence and bias, especially when manipulated or directed towards in-group members.

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Rational deliberation, not emotional responses, should guide our moral decisions, reflecting the essence of the age of reason.

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Summary & Review

Paul Bloom argues that empathy, often seen as the ultimate source of good behavior, can actually lead to biased and irrational decisions. Empathy, defined as the ability to feel the suffering of others, can inspire care and protection in personal relationships. However, it can also bias us towards those we find attractive or similar to us, while numbing us to the plight of those who are different or distant. This can lead to poor decisions in areas such as charity, child-raising, criminal justice, climate change, and war. Bloom suggests that we should rely on reason and compassion, rather than empathy, when making moral decisions.

Paul Bloom

Paul Bloom is a Canadian-American psychologist and professor at Yale University, known for his research in cognitive science and developmental psychology. His work primarily focuses on exploring how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art.

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