Lucy, empathy is certainly a component of not being evil. But recently both psychologists (David Bloom) and philosophers (Jesse Prinz) have cautioned on an over-reliance on empathy. For one thing, empathy can be somewhat easily manipulated (look at the picture of the baby!, except the picture is a set piece, not reflecting a real situation). Second, it doesn’t scale up: it is impossible for human beings to feel empathy for large numbers of people, which is why individual stories are far more compelling that statistics on, say, poverty. But they shouldn’t be, since the stats tell the real, or at least broader, story.

Written by

Ethics, general philosophy, and philosophy of science. Complete index, by subject, at https://massimopigliucci.com/essays/

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store