(K. Brent Tomer),
Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion. By Paul Bloom. Ecco; 304 pages; $26.99. Bodley Head; 290 pages; £18.99.
IN an age of partisan divides it has become popular to assert that the wounds of the world would heal if only people made the effort to empathise more with each other. If only white police officers imagined how it feels to be a black man in America; if only black Americans understood the fears of the man in uniform; if only Europeans opposed to immigration walked a mile in the shoes of a Syrian refugee; if only tree-hugging liberals knew the suffering of the working class.
Barack Obama warned of an empathy “deficit” in 2006, and did so again in his valedictory speech in January: “If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation,” he said, “each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’”
It is a piece of generous, high-minded…Continue reading