Category Archives: Paul Bloom

Paul Bloom

It is because of empathy that we often enact savage laws or enter into terrible wars; our feeling for the suffering of the few leads to disastrous consequences for the many.

Paul Bloom, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, New York, 2016, p. 127

Paul Bloom

Don’t try to establish equality and justice by raising others up to the level of those you love. Don’t try to make them more weighty. Rather, make yourself less weighty. Bring everyone to the same level by diminishing yourself. Put yourself, and those you love, on the level of strangers.

We see this sort of advice spelled out by Bertrand Russell, who says that when we read the newspaper, we ought to substitute the names of countries, including our own, to get a more fair sense of what’s going on. Take “Israel” and replace it with “Bolivia,” replace “United States” with “Argentina,” and so on. (Perhaps even better would be to use arbitrary symbols: X, Y, and Z.) This is an excellent way to remove bias.

Paul Bloom, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, New York, 2016, p. 109

Paul Bloom

[I]t is impossible to empathize with seven billion strangers, or to feel toward someone you’ve never met the degree of concern you feel for a child, a friend, or a lover. Our best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family—that’s impossible. It lies, instead, in an appreciation of the fact that, even if we don’t empathize with distant strangers, their lives have the same value as the lives of those we love.

Paul Bloom, ‘The Baby in the Well’, The New Yorker, May 20, 2013

Paul Bloom

[O]ne of the strongest examples of essentialism concerns the difference between the sexes. Before ever learning about physiology, genetics, evolutionary theory, or any other science, children think that there is something internal and invisible that distinguishes boys from girls. This essentialism can be explicit, as when one girl explained why a boy will go fishing rather than put on makeup: “’Cause that’s they boy instinct.” And seven-year-olds tend to endorse statements such as “Boys have different things in their innards than girls” and “Because God made them that way” (a biological essence and a spiritual essence). Only later in development do children accept cultural explanations, such as “Because it is the way we have been brought up.” You need to be socialized to think about socialization.

Paul Bloom, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, New York, 2010, p. 17