Skip to main content

the case against empathy

Yesterday I was listening to Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom being interviewed. He has written a book on empathy; one which turns it a little bit on its ear. He is not against it per se but argues against its sometimes misplaced energy and misuse.

After the Sandy Hook shootings the town was literally inundated with Teddy Bears; so many in fact that they had no place to put them. People's visceral reaction produced empathy which had made them react in a way that actually wasn’t helpful.

Mr Bloom’s point is that we can relate to cases that touch our hearts but then can also turn a blind eye to greater causes. Mass shootings bring out great emotions and yet are statistically insignificant compared to the murder problems in Chicago. Young black teens being killed might produce less empathy in some and yet it’s a far bigger issue.

Paul Bloom proposes we make our empathy more pragmatic and address issues by ignoring our personal feelings. The dirty homeless man on the corner requires our attention irrespective of a recoil reflex which might make us want to deliberately look away.

He brings out other examples as well.

Lobbyists for causes use empathy to great effect. They are media savvy and will point to an individual case in order to instil empathy. That poor old woman who didn’t have a gun to shoot her home intruder will be brought up by an NRA spokesman who proposes everyone be armed to the teeth; never mind that statistically speaking she is a blip on the radar and that applying their doctrine would be ludicrous.

Paul Bloom argues for a rational form of compassion that when wisely applied is a great weapon to mobilise resources to worthy causes instead of employed to manipulate sentiment to produce an undesirable outcome.

I think he might be correct.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

prejudice disguised as objective rectitude

So here is Professor Jordan Peterson perhaps justly calling out the excesses of political correctness gone mad. But then he extends it to not indulging transgender people the basic dignity of being addressed in their preferred pronoun. To do so for him would cost nothing and to stand on literal principle seems to serve little use other than to send a message of disdain.

If you have transitioned or even live as the opposite gender is costs me nothing to address you in your preferred pronouns. What difference does it make to me and what am I trying to tell you when I don't?

Peterson wants to stand on his rights to call reality what it is except that in this case the exact objective escapes me. But of course the right wing Federalist is in love with him because he calls a spade a spade.

If I see a rock I can call it that but then the rock doesn’t have any feelings. To address a transgender woman "her" and "she" is not undermining my rights as a person in any way b…

"Oh please its 2016!"

I have mentioned before that I have a lovely young couple living above the unit next to mine. Well the other day as I was getting in the door, she and I overlapped for the first time with me dressed as a woman.

We had a nice conversation and at some point I mentioned the obvious which was that I had told her future husband that they might see me in a different guise from time to time so they wouldn't wonder about who the strange woman was. She just looked at me almost rolling her eyes while smiling from ear to ear and said:

"Oh Please it's 2016!"

For the record she was also very complementary regarding my choice of attire.

I could care less at this point in my life what people think but it is still lovely to see the millennial generation's freedom of spirit and acceptance so lacking in previous generations. Yes they have their own foibles, as does every generation, but this area certainly isn't one of them.

looking past cross gender arousal

Jack’s latest Crossdreamers post got me thinking about cross gender arousal and how it could be avoided; also whether it even matters. This with particular focus on the inability to relate of someone on the outside looking in.

You see, sexuality is a very complicated thing to begin with and when you then add gender identity ambiguity it becomes a recipe to really confuse someone.

So imagine that you are a little boy who identifies as a girl but then along comes puberty and short circuits everything by having the sex you identify with also be the sex you are attracted to. For in essence this is what happens to all all male to female gender dysphoric trans persons who are attracted to women.

So I ask myself: can I imagine a scenario where this inherent contradiction would not produce sexual confusion? The answer is that I cannot.

I am in the unique position, like many of you, to have experienced an early identification with the feminine become sexualized later on. This brought confusion…