Friday, November 14, 2014

Against Empathy

Paul Bloom writes:
When asked what I am working on, I often say I am writing a book about empathy. People tend to smile and nod, and then I add, “I’m against it.” This usually gets an uncomfortable laugh.

This reaction surprised me at first, but I’ve come to realize that taking a position against empathy is like announcing that you hate kittens — a statement so outlandish it can only be a joke. And so I’ve learned to clarify, to explain that I am not against morality, compassion, kindness, love, being a good neighbor, doing the right thing, and making the world a better place. My claim is actually the opposite: if you want to be good and do good, empathy is a poor guide. ...

It is easy to see, then, how empathy can be a moral good, and it has many champions. Obama talks frequently about empathy; witness his recent claim, after his first meeting with Pope Francis, that “it’s the lack of empathy that makes it very easy for us to plunge into wars. It’s the lack of empathy that allows us to ignore the homeless on the streets.” ...

Most people see the benefits of empathy as akin to the evils of racism: too obvious to require justification. I think this is a mistake. ...
He explain his argument in a New Yorker article last year, and this one is part of an online debate with experts.

His critics argue that without empathy, we would be just like Hitler killing the Jews, or just like the Israeli Jews killing the Gaza Arabs. You know someone's argument is probably weak if he has to make Nazi analogies. One says “Dead babies are not an argument.”

Definitions of empathy vary, but it is means something different from sympathy and compassion.

As a rule, women are more empathic, and men are more analytical. Psychologists tend to be effeminate and empathic.
Some degree of emotional empathy is bred in the bone. The sight and sound of another’s suffering is unpleasant for babies and, as soon as they are mobile enough, they try to help, patting and soothing others in distress.
I thought that this would be true, but it has not been my experience. I have seen babies completely ignore a fellow baby who is screaming in pain.

Here is a description of a high-empathy woman, from a psychologist who believes that empathy is a universal good that solves all interpersonal problems:
Hannah is a psychotherapist who has a natural gift for tuning into how others are feeling. As soon as you walk into her living room, she is already reading your face, your gait, your posture. The first thing she asks you is ‘How are you?’ but this is no perfunctory platitude. Her intonation — even before you have taken off your coat — suggests an invitation to confide, to disclose, to share. Even if you just answer with a short phrase, your tone of voice reveals to her your inner emotional state, and she quickly follows up your answer with ‘You sound a bit sad. What’s happened to upset you?’

Before you know it, you are opening up to this wonderful listener, who interjects only to offer sounds of comfort and concern, to mirror how you feel, occasionally offering soothing words to boost you and make you feel valued. Hannah is not doing this because it is her job to do so. She is like this with her clients, her friends, and even people she has only just met. Hannah’s friends feel cared for by her, and her friendships are built around sharing confidences and offering mutual support. She has an unstoppable drive to empathize.
I would say that Hannah has a personality disorder. I have known people like that, and they always have an assortment of personal problems stemming from their inability handle straightforward communication and apply cold reason.

Empathy is also crucial for leftist politics. Nobody votes for Barack Obama based on results. They somehow get convinced that he has more empathy, even tho he is not particular high empathy. But he has some effeminate personality traits that some people confuse for empathy.

As an example, here is an argument against the recently failed N. Dakota Measure 6 for shared parenting:
Sometimes the heart takes precedence to the head

It's an easy no on Measure 6, because North Dakota judges already act in the best interests of the children without having an untenable law that ties their hands. ...

It is hard to argue with the philosophy behind Measure 6, the shared parenting initiative.

Proponents believe the interests of children are best served when they grow up loving and being loved by both of their parents.

The reality is that children would be best served in families where there are two loving parents. ...

In our state, most custody cases are resolved by mutual agreement, not by knockdown drag-outs.
This is leftist female empathy thinking, from a man. He seems to recognize that shared parenting is superior, that the ballot measure does that, and that a rational vote would favor the measure. But it does not give the judge the opportunity to make an empathy-based decision after a contested trial. So he votes no.

Here was the ballot summary:
This initiated measure would amend section 14-09-06.2 of the North Dakota Century Code to create a presumption that each parent is a fit parent and entitled to be awarded equal parental rights and responsibilities by a court unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary
Here is a lawyer opposing the measure on TV, and he argues that divorce lawyers do not profit from child custody disputes, but they will make more income if the measure passes, so they have funded the attack ads against the measure.

Yeah, that does not make any sense. But that is what he says.

No rational person would be convinced by such nonsense. Only self-interested lawyers, stupid people, and leftist-feminist-pro-empathy folks who don't believe that parents have any rights to their kids. The measure essentially says that parents have a right to their kids, unless proved unfit.

What the measure would have eliminated are the knockdown drag-out fights over who is the better parent, or who is in the best interest of the kids. So N. Dakota parents, and parents in the other 49 states, are always subject to the second-guessing of a judge about the BIOTCh.


HeligKo said...

I really hate when I hear that most child custody is decided by mutual consent. Mine will be on that list. I have a choice to go to trial and spend money that I don't have and have the GAL tell the judge that I should have no time with my kids or accept what she is offering. Since I can't really afford to go to trial, and knowing I will lose, I have to go with take the offer. This is like agreeing to eat a pile of dog crap of my own volition, knowing that if I don't I am going to be forced to eat the pile of cow crap over there and be shot in the head when I am done. Everyone can say I chose to eat the dog crap, but the truth is I had very little choice in the matter.

George said...

Yes, that's right. Lawyers like to brag that they got a settlement with the agreement of all parties, as if everyone is happy.

George said...

This is an important point, so I will post more tomorrow.