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Rock Colloquia Series: Empathy is a choice - The limits of empathy are more apparent than real
by Rob Peeler published Feb 06, 2017 last modified Mar 30, 2017 11:30 AM — filed under:
Empathy, or the ability to feel what others feel, is often seen as a powerful moral force. But what are its limits? Many studies find that empathy is less sensitive to large-scale suffering (e.g., natural disasters, genocides) and the suffering of racial and political out-groups. These empathy deficits have led some scholars to argue against empathy, concluding that it is an unreliable basis for moral action. In this talk, he suggest that limits on empathy are more apparent than real: what appear to be built-in “glitches" in empathy may instead be due to motivated choices we make to avoid empathy’s costs. He will present a motivational framework for understanding empathy, and will discuss evidence that seemingly fixed limits on empathy can shift depending on what we want, and choose, to feel. If empathy limits are flexible choices rather than fixed constraints, this challenges strong normative arguments against the usefulness of empathy in everyday life. He will conclude by discussing implications for ethical debates about empathy and future directions in research on empathy as a choice.
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