Summary: “The Baby in the Well: The Case Against Empathy”
Bloom begins with the stamp of approval on the importance of empathy from well-known figure, Barack Obama. He points out that many believe that the ability to view the world through other’s eyes, to feel their pain, and to feel the urge to lend a helping hand to them is what makes us ethical beings. Considered to be vital for human development and survival, empathy is a quality that most people are capable of. In “The Baby in the Well: The Case Against Empathy”, author, Paul Bloom argues that while empathy is crucial in maintaining positive relationships we ought to choose “a reasoned, even counter-empathetic analysis of moral obligation and like consequences is a better guide to planning for the future than the gut wrench of empathy (12-13).”
However, empathy has its drawbacks; it is “parochial, narrow-minded, and innumerate (10).” A phenomenon known as the “identifiable victim effect (11)” tends to concentrate on the suffering of people whose names and faces we think we know. Bloom points out how America became captivated by eighteen-month-old Jessica McClure (Baby Jessica) in 1987 after falling into a well. America also flooded it’s empathy to Natalee Holloway, after disappearing in Aruba in 2005, as well as the targets of the Sandy Hook school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. But the same people who feel empathetic in those situations seem to be oblivious to the thousands of vast disasters that occur every year. According to a lab experiment people tend to openhandedly donate funds for the advancement of a lifesaving medication for a particular child who needs it when they know the name and age of that child.
Empathy tends to “lead us astray (11)” by allowing our empathetic urges to get the upper hand in a situation. When we act on the urge of empathy, we may help very few people and often look past those who don’t have names or stories. Empathy is an irrational...