Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion By: Paul Bloom Study Questions Chapter 1: Other People’s Shoes What does Bloom mean by empathy? What is the difference between emotional empathy & cognitive empathy/social intelligence? How do you think our culture currently views empathy? What is the ethical framework from which Bloom is operating? Do you agree with this approach? What are some properties of empathy? o How do these properties interfere with moral decision making? What form can ethical deliberation/behavior take in the absence of empathy? Bloom closes the chapter by anticipating various objections that a thoughtful reader might raise. o Do you find these objections compelling? o Do you find Bloom’s rebuttals to said objections compelling? o Are there additional objections that you would raise? Chapter 2: The Anatomy of Empathy What are alternatives to empathy when it comes to initiating prosocial/moral behavior? o How compelling do you find these alternatives? o When you act morally, what do you think drives your behavior? What do the empirical studies by Batson demonstrate? What are the 3 main findings from empathy neuroscience? What are some of the methodological challenges involved in studying empathy? According to scientific research, is there a relationship between empathy and o moral behavior? o aggression? Chapter 3: Doing Good In what hypothetical world would empathy be a force for good? What were the findings of the Batson study? How do biases and cognitive limitations impact the workings of empathy? What is the identifiable victim effect? What are some specific examples in which empathically driven behaviors backfire to result in greater harm? Might empathy, despite all of its imperfections, be a necessary catalyst for moral action? o What are some alternative reasons to behave morally? What is effective altruism? What is the veil of ignorance? Interlude: The Politics of Empathy Is there an association between empathy and political orientation? How do both liberals and conservatives use empathy to further their sociopolitical agendas? Chapter 4: Intimacy What are some of the drawbacks of being a highly empathic person? How does Buddhism view empathy vs. compassion? What are the neuroscientific findings in relation to empathy vs. compassion? How can empathy interfere with o healthcare? o good parenting? Interlude: Empathy as the Foundation of Morality What are some caveats when it comes to interpreting and applying findings from developmental studies? Do you think morality is selfish? o What is the evolutionary perspective on this question? What are some caveats when applying evolutionary logic to common behavior? What does the chapter say regarding the innateness of empathy? Chapter 5: Violence and Cruelty What are different perspectives on human violence? What is “the myth of pure evil”? o Do you agree with this perspective? What do you think are the most common causes for violence and malevolence? o What is Bloom’s take? What is the relationship between empathy and punitive punishment? To what extent is psychopathy responsible for the pain we inflict on each other? What is the relationship between empathy and crime/aggression? Chapter 6: Age of Reason How much trust do you place in the workings of human reason? Where along the spectrum of reason and emotion do you think humans fall? What are some of the empirical data on reasoning errors? Why do you think human reason falters? In what situations are reasoning errors and cognitive biases most likely to manifest themselves? What counterarguments does Bloom make in defense of reason? What can we do to attenuate cognitive errors & sloppy reasoning in our daily life? Do you agree that ‘rational compassion’ is an appropriate alternative to empathy or a suitable foundation for moral behavior? Have your views on empathy changed after reading this book?