Paul Bloom, Against empathy: the case for rational compassion


Paul Bloom is not opposed to empathy per se; he accepts that empathy can awaken our generosity and inspire us to care better for others.  What Bloom has a quarrel with is the idea that the ability to share in someone else’s emotions makes you a better person in a moral sense.  As a spur to doing the right thing, Bloom prefers ‘righteous rage’ to empathy.  This he credits with propelling forward the women’s liberation and civil rights movements. What are the merits of ‘righteous rage’ (anger coupled with sound reasoning)?  It is ‘highly motivating, difficult to manipulate, applicable wherever injustice is found, [and] easier [than empathy] to insulate against bias’.  There are many components to Bloom’s argument for adopting a more reasoned response in difficult or unhappy situations, listed below are those that I found most striking.

  • No one has a universal ability to empathise.  You can only really…

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