Against Empathy

  • by Paul Bloom
  • Narrated by Karen Cass
  • 7 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A controversial call to arms, Against Empathy argues that the natural impulse to share the feelings of others can lead to immoral choices in both public policy and in our intimate relationships with friends and family.
Most people, including many policy makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers, have encouraged us to be more empathetic - to feel the pain and pleasure of others. Yale researcher and author Paul Bloom argues that this is a mistake. Far from leading us to improve the lives of others, empathy is a capricious and irrational emotion that appeals to our narrow prejudices. It muddles our judgment and often leads to cruelty. We are at our best when we are smart enough not to rely on it and draw upon a more distanced compassion.
Based on groundbreaking scientific findings, Against Empathy makes the case that some of the worst decisions that individuals and nations make - who to give money to, when to go to war, how to respond to climate change, and who to put in prison - are too often motivated by honest yet misplaced emotions. With clear and witty prose, Bloom demonstrates how empathy distorts our judgment in every aspect of our lives, from philanthropy and charity to the justice system; from culture and education to foreign policy and war. Without empathy, Bloom insists, our decisions would be clearer, fairer, and ultimately more moral.
Bound to be controversial, Against Empathy shows us that when it comes to major policy decisions and the choices we make in our everyday lives, limiting our empathetic emotions is often the most compassionate choice we can make.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Empathy is like soda, tempting, delicious, and bad

If you could sum up Against Empathy in three words, what would they be?

You're being manipulated


What other book might you compare Against Empathy to and why?

The means by which good people are manipulated to do evil is not obvious to anyone. Other books that explore misleading emotions could be Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Tavris & Aronson, Strangers to Ourselves by Tim Wilson, You Are Not So Smart by McRaney, Influence by Cialdini, Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert, and Haidt's Righteous Mind


Which scene was your favorite?

The chapter on violent conflict had some chilling stuff. Hows do you get a morally good man to torture, degrade and execute another man in cold blood? Make the good man a liberating soldier, make the tortured a Nazi prison guard, then evoke empathy for the prisoners.


Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Tried to but I have to sleep sometime...


Any additional comments?

After reading this book I watched Captain America: Civil War, and the lens of this book gave me a very different experience of the movie. Everyone is empathizing with someone, that empathy motivates their actions, and everyone nearly dies as a result. How do you manipulate even a superhero? Empathy.

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- Dubito Ergo Sum "Super skeptic, reality poet, mega geek, & science nerd extraordinaire."

Smart, informative and grounded by evidence

I very much enjoyed this book. Without the intention, this actually became a self help book for me. I have always believed myself to be an empath. I have found that this emotional pull has caused me a lot of unnecessary grief and unhealthy levels of stress. I never knew how I could find a way out of this self destructive and reactionary behavior. This book laid out facts about empathy that I had not known before. I feel more equipt to control my empathetic impulses and instead choose to act within the bounds of reason with a measured rational response. Reading this book spared me many circular frustrating talks with my therapist. I believe that I can see my empathic nature more clearly now. It was informative and the facts about empathy were based in scientific research. I will go forward with a new mindset on this subject and I am grateful for it.
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- Mummus

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-06-2016
  • Publisher: HarperAudio