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Empathy + Thinking = Wise Action


Empathy + Thinking = Wise Action

Zoe Weil

In a recent video from The Atlantic, Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom argues that empathy is a fundamentally bad thing that makes the world worse.


Paul Bloom is using controversy ('empathy is bad') to compete for audience attention. it works, but the message (in the video) doesn't address the true problem underlying the assertion that 'empathy causes people to go to war'--the underlying problem is the lack of critical thinking/skepticism of power elites' PR campaigns for war. people's innate empathy IS manipulated when elites make the case for war by calling out images of atrocities etc. That doesn't make empathy bad, but rather demonstrates the piss poor state of information access, and media-consumers' motivation to read between the lines.
Without empathy, we're sunk as a species. it's a global shortage of insightful empathy which is feeding the petro-consumption frenzy, which in turn is feeding global warming, b/c too many people aren't putting themselves into the shoes of future generations, or current generations who are/will be bearing the brunt of extreme climate events driven by human-caused climate change.

i think it's a cynical ploy on Bloom's part to garner more attention for his writings.


I tend to think of the source of empathy as a pre-verbal sense of coherent resonance arising from our creatural condition. If I think about the autonomic nervous system - to what degree being alive is determined by things we never think about until a change is 'felt', we are actually largely empathetic creatures. To 'know something in your bones', or your gut is an old expression of this, put into verbal concepts.

In turn, this also reflects a fundamental opposition I have to the domination of 'secrecy' as an aspect of a domination society. It is a twisting of basic human nature as thinking creature. The open sharing of information in governance is essential. Self-governance on the private level enables capacity to hold the 'new' through to coherence in a sensed body of experience and assimilation and eventual expression.

I would add that the domination construct has for hundreds of years excluded, while extracting from, the absolutely essential diversity of legacy wisdom of traditional, naturally arising autocthonous social groups, many of which represent a wealth of millennial wisdom. Unfortunately they are all too often regarded in dominant society according to the extractive mindset, which has to do its business, scorning even the suggestion of learning from them - hence compounding what we are fast coming to realize is a dangerously predatory view of the meaning of life. That predatory rationalization being due to the massive depth and breadth of denial of the actual consequences of so much being excluded from consideration.

Bloom's emoticon styled assertions would be comic were they not so profoundly grating in their ethnocentric dicing of language in an attempt to claim a universal authority so clearly riddled with lacunas. Given that this presumably critiques something identified among the Atlantic readership, then the intended audience might to question a whole slew of fundamental premises.


Bloom probably believes in "trickle down" and other neoliberal economic theory. He is probably sure the "free market" will cause empathy.

Of course never mind the change in the division of wealth between the 1% and the rest of the population.


From the brief description that Zoe Weil gives of Bloom, he sounds like Ayn Rand lite. (Yechhh!)


It's amazing how there is a tendency to turn one modest insight into a theory of everything. I think the author strikes the right balance. The application of moral principles is usually (always?) difficult.


Interesting that fulcrum of balance for the see-saw in play essentially asserts that money = "moral principles". Its very interesting to consider the implications there.


"In a recent video from The Atlantic, Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom argues that empathy is a fundamentally bad thing that makes the world worse.

"Bloom believes empathy leads us to make less rational decisions.

"Bloom goes even further, arguing that empathy leads to war. It is surprising that Bloom posits that invading Middle Eastern countries stems from our empathy for victims of brutality and cruelty."

The quoted material from Bloom represents everything I despise.

It's an attack on the Feminine component of human sentience: the ability to feel what others feel.

It pushes aside the FAR more weighty elements that shape war--like rabid resource acquisition, feeding the military industry complex, and maintaining the hegemonic controls of the U.S. petro-dollar--to in their place set up the ridiculous and false argument that it was EMPATHY that led to war. (This is insane!)

Where was Bloom when right after 911 (a very likely Inside Job) Bush called out for vengeance, and purposely conflated the premise of justice with that of revenge?

Where was Bloom when the churches pushed their own modern Holy War Crusades arguments to convince naïve young people to sign up and fight the "evil doers"?

I don't believe that a Yale intellectual could BE that stupid. This "argument" sounds like a new breed of disinformation of the sort that insisted that babies were being put into incubators in Iraq (in the run-up to war against that nation).

Note that these wars always carry ridiculous cover stories MEANT to entice empathy; but these cover stories ALWAYS prove false (remember "Curved Ball") and always serve as the smokescreens put deliberately in place to hide real motives, real actions, and engineered opportunities.

When someone like Zoe Weil debates this high-paid clown, she inadvertently lends legitimacy to his craven dis-information style "arguments."

I'll bet the CIA is covering Bloom's ass... and bank account.


Bloom is an idiot. That he is considered a Yale Intellectual demonstrates how dumbed down those institutes of higher learning become.

I can learn more from a 5 year old child showing empathy for another child that is ill and in some Children's hospital than I can learn from Paul Bloom.

Anyone that believes dropping napalm on a village is an exercise in empathy is a person so lacking in the same he has to pretend that lacking is some sort of virtue.

He is a pathetic individual and I have empathy for him. That hardly means I want to visit violence upon him.


Excellent observations and I thank you for posting them.


I read some other article somewhere just to show how bad this becomes.

Various groups are suggesting that society and Governmnets not refer to breastfeeding as "natural". they claim it leads to Public health problems when people pursue "natural alternatives".

Cloud cuckoo land.


Adam Curtis addresses Paul Bloom's arguments in part 1 of "The Trap"

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuPz97bjuLM&nohtml5=False) {2007, 59 min}

In The Trap it is discussed how a system based on self interest replaced the system built up in the "free world" after WWII. It is discussed how mathematics and Game Theory "proved" that self interest would produce better results than empathy as the rational way to organize ourselves. However as Curtis shows, and as we can see from the results since 1980, that unchecked self interest run rampant leads to gross inequality and misery and it is becoming obvious that empathy is much needed in how we organize ourselves.


Yes, you and I and most people understand that. I have not looked in depth at Bloom's work but no doubt there is much in there that is interesting.

From Adam Curtis' film I understand him to be using "self interest" to refer to a mathematical modeling of self interest. It seems to me that it has been used incorrectly as a justification for a re-organizing of society to one that depreciates the importance of empathy in our decisions and removes the need for the elites to concern themselves much with the needs of others. I found Curtis' outline in part 1 of The Trap of how our societies shifted away from valuing empathy to be quite interesting. And I very much look forward to when the pendulm begins shifting back again.


Although it's hardly a popular subject in this forum (or many others that purport to be intelligent and Progressive), the problem still comes down to patriarchy. It prizes traits that tend to be masculine, especially when they comport with aggression, competition, and the means through which to affect control--over women, the natural world, and any designated enemies du jour.

Essentially, I'm talking Left Brain. It's bound to materiality and all that can be measured. It prefers direct cause and effect relationships and phenomena that can be directed.

Bloom has an AVERSION to The Feminine side of sentience. It's related to intuition, feelings, empathy, compassion, visionary sensations, and what cannot be controlled or measured.

I am busy with an important deadline, so I'm not going to go into this matter in further depth. However, the points made by Rupert Sheldrake in this BANNED Ted Talk really hit the nail on the head and explain where I am coming from.

Sheldrake is brilliant and his attack is on the kind of mindset demonstrated by a fool like Bloom. Academia, an important component of patriarchy (and key force in maintaining control over what passes for intelligence) prefers the Left Brain prejudice I've identified.

Here is the link: