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Against Empathy

Against Empathy
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    I'm writing a book on empathy.
    And I'm arguing against it.
    I'm arguing that empathy is fundamentally,
    from a moral standpoint,
    a bad thing.
    It makes the world worse.
    I'm using empathy in the sense of putting yourself
    in the shoes of another person. Feeling their pain.
    It might seem obvious that it will make you a good
    person because it makes you more likely to care for
    them and more likely to help them.
    But one problem is that empathy blinds you to
    the long-term consequences of your action.
    It's because of empathy that the whole world cares so
    much more about a baby stuck in a well
    than we do about global warming.
    The philosopher Peter Singer gives an example
    of what he calls warm-glow altruists for charities.
    They give to a lot of different charities and
    they give a little bit of money to each one.
    Because for each one to get a little rush,
    "Oh, I'm helping the blind babies,
    Oh, I'm helping the farm workers,
    Oh, I'm helping the chickens,
    The problem is when you give a small amount of money
    to a charity, often it doesn't do much good because the
    money it takes to process your donation in some cases
    the charity takes a loss in your donation.
    Singer describes warm-glow altruists who basically give
    because they get a buzz out of it as opposed to what he
    calls effective altruists. Effective altruists say,
    What does the world need? How can I use my money to
    best ends? How can I volunteer to make things better?
    And Singer argues convincingly that it's the effective
    altruists that make a bigger change in the world.
    A lot of our failures to make the world a better place but
    also a lot of our awful actions are motivated
    by a sort of moralistic rush.
    Empathic engagement, being caught up in the suffering
    of victims is usually the number one argument in
    a democratic country for going to war.
    It's how the government persuaded us to support the
    war in Iraq, if we ever go to war against ISIS,
    like a full-blown military war, it will be motivated by
    our feelings for the suffering of their victims.
    But that's just one consideration.
    Another consideration is how many people die in wars?
    How many other victims will they create?
    But our empathy, our selfish moralizing, zooms us in
    and says, "Oh my god there are these people suffering,
    let's bomb the crap out of them,
    let's destroy the whole country to save these people."
    And then people are later surprised, "Apparently
    we've killed 50,000 people. Who would've known?"
    If you really want to make the world better, spend less
    time trying to maximize your own altruistic joy and in a
    more cold-blooded way think, how could I help others?
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