Monday, May 13, 2013

The Baby in the Well. The Case Against Empathy.

Below are my ruminations in reference to the article, The Baby in the Well. The Case Against Empathy, by Paul Bloom, which was published in The New Yorker, May 20, 2013.

The point of the article is that empathy is not very helpful unless it is coupled with values and reason. Empathy is something that I was ignorant about until I was in my early 30's. I thought it was something that women did! Of course in hindsight, I had experienced empathy before then, especially from my mother when I was a child, but I was not able to put a name on it. Until my early 30's, I had chosen an approach to life that was rigid and overly intellectual. Of course, I always had the same human need for empathy as everyone else, but I was lost in the wilderness. As I grew up, I chose a rather stoic, 1950's male approach to life, coupled with a wildly overdeveloped superego. As per what I have learned from Fr. Luigi Giussani, the purpose of feelings in humans is to draw our attention to what is important.  That makes perfect sense to me. And using a metaphor from Giussani, feelings are the like the lens of the eye or a camera. To see clearly, the lens must be focused. Feelings inform our reason, and for our reason to function at its best, the lens of feelings must be properly focused.  The last sentence of The New Yorker article reads, "But empathy will have to yield to reason if humanity is to have a future."

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