Empathy at Yale University

“Empathy is bad and it makes the world worse.
(https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/474588/why-empathy-is-a-bad-thing/) ”

If I were Yale University I would be ashamed to have Paul Bloom on staff. I’d watch that three minute video and say, “Who hired this guy? Who promoted him? Who let this happen under our watch?” and then I would fire this guy, and I would fire the guy who promoted him, and I would just massacre everyone in the department who enabled this nonsense.

This is only getting a piece of my time because it came across my feed, but it’s brain-poison, and I was asked for a refutation.

To start with, he argues that empathy drives us to ignore the long-term consequences of our actions, and that a ‘cold-blooded appraisal’ of outcomes is much more desirable ‘if you want to make the world a better place.’ This is an unsupported statement, but it’s one that the entire thesis rests on. Nowhere is it discussed that empathy is the motivator for the cold-blooded approach. (If you don’t care in the first place, why would you be motivated to examine your actions for their bettering consequences?)

He notes that people usually give to charities only to sate their desire for that gratifying ‘warm-glow of altruism,’ and that due to how a lot of charities are set up, a small donation to many different charities can end up actually costing the charity money. Somehow, this is empathy’s fault. It seems to me that this is a fantastic critique of capitalism, but what do I know? I’m not a cognitive scientist or anything.

He goes on in this vein to suggest that empathy got us into the Iraq War (among others), because ‘our desire to help others allowed government to manipulate us.’ I’m not sure a more blatantly anti-human statement has been made in the history of missing the forest for the trees. “We care so much we’re going to bomb the shit out of you”? That’s the angle he picked? A neoliberal imperialist superpower destroyed an entire country on false pretenses and this doctorate-holder believes that it’s because Americans cared too much?

I’d have fired him so hard.

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