Uploaded by Gennadiy Gurariy

Against Empathy: Study Questions

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
 How do you think our culture currently views empathy?
 What is the ethical framework from which Bloom is operating? Do you agree with this
 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
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
 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?