In the current Boston Review, Paul Bloom has a discussion piece, Against Empathy. He opens by referencing Adam Smith…
The word “empathy” is used in many ways, but here I am adopting its most common meaning, which corresponds to what eighteenth-century philosophers such as Adam Smith called “sympathy.” It refers to the process of experiencing the world as others do, or at least as you think they do. To empathize with someone is to put yourself in her shoes, to feel her pain. Some researchers also use the term to encompass the more coldblooded process of assessing what other people are thinking, their motivations, their plans, what they believe. This is sometimes called “cognitive,” as opposed to “emotional,” empathy.
Paul Bloom identifies issues with empathy – that we are more likely to feel empathetic towards people like us or people who are attractive; that empathy leads us to focus on individual cases but ignore mass suffering. He argues that empathy is not the only thing that can motivate helping, compassion can too. Continue reading “Hutcheson Redux? Against Empathy.”
A video (8:30) from the Institute for Humane Studies.
Prof. James Stacey Taylor discusses the contributions of Francis Hutcheson, an intellectual of the Scottish Enlightenment who was instrumental in advancing the sentimentalist approach to morality.
Good despite the random insults to Scotland.