Monday, August 10, 2020

Against Empathy book report

 Danielle Hoppenfeld 


Taboo Self Care

In Paul Bloom’s, Against Empathy, Bloom argues empathy as a source of pleasure, but that is more negative than positive in human affairs. While the author recognizes that stating he is against empathy is very taboo, the reason for writing this book was to make the world a better place, and thereby forcing people to recognize that relying on empathy is misplaced. The topics explored in this novel exemplify how empathy is a balancing act, and while it's good for some things, it should generally be avoided. The differences between the subjects discussed are vast and stem from political views to romance. His position on these topics differ, but Bloom’s position on empathy doesn’t dissuade from it being negative as a whole. Empathy, in short, is stepping into someone else’s shoes and feeling their pain, but what benefits does that truly bring us? Bloom argues to think with your head instead of your heart, because empathy is limited, biased, and affects your rationality. 

In Chapter 4, Bloom compares the personality trait of being empathetic to what partners search for in a relationship. Motivation to mate was a subject discussed in class, as well as the traits we search for. Empathy is a trait that people search for in a romantic relationship, but the author argues that it’s not empathy people look for, but instead kindness and warmth. The motivation to mate and the motivation to be empathetic are both tied to a theory that our existence is purely to continue our genetic code. The author addresses this argument, and says it is a nihilistic way of looking at the world and is truly incorrect. Humans are about more than surviving, reproducing, and natural selection. Bloom proves that this theory is wrong by discussing our relationship with food. “We eat because we’re hungry, or bored, or anxious, or want to be good guests, or hate ourselves, or whatever. There are no deep theological musings about genetic survival running through our heads as we dig into a bag of potato chips.” What the author means in this quote is that we have more incentive to our actions than mere survival, we look for emotional fulfillment which can be acquired without offspring. Our existence has more meaning than the reproduction of our genetic codes.

Paul Bloom argues that while it is beneficial to receive empathy from others, the person who is empathetic is not receiving the same treatment back, and therefore it loses its charm. Empathy is a balance and trade-off of emotions which the author sees as overwhelmingly negative for the person who is giving it. People are complex creatures, and their motivations are typically masked. Going through life you hear a lot of stories of past trauma from friends, family members, and whoever you may come across. While letting people vent to you is beneficial for the person who is trying to reach out, the empathy you may feel for them is harmful to your own well being, and what you should focus on is compassion. Compassion is different from empathy because while you can help someone in pain you don’t have to feel it as well. While someone may have gone through a traumatic experience, and you want to help them, you don’t have to relive your own pain to accommodate or ease someone else’s. Arguably the best knowledge the reader can take from this book is to help others without being harmful to themselves.

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