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  • Published: 16 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099597827
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $22.99

Against Empathy

The Case for Rational Compassion

This landmark scientific investigation by one of the world's leading psychologists reveals empathy to be our most dangerous emotion

In a divided world, empathy is not the solution, it is the problem.

We think of empathy - the ability to feel the suffering of others for ourselves - as the ultimate source of all good behaviour. But while it inspires care and protection in personal relationships, it has the opposite effect in the wider world. As the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows, we feel empathy most for those we find attractive and who seem similar to us and not at all for those who are different, distant or anonymous. Empathy therefore biases us in favour of individuals we know while numbing us to the plight of thousands. Guiding us expertly through the experiments, case studies and arguments on all sides, Paul Bloom ultimately shows that some of our worst decisions - in charity, child-raising, criminal justice, climate change and war - are motivated by this wolf in sheep's clothing.

Brilliantly argued, urgent and humane, Against Empathy overturns widely held assumptions to reveal one of the most profound yet overlooked sources of human conflict.

  • Published: 16 April 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099597827
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Paul Bloom

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at Yale University. He is an internationally recognised expert on the psychology of language, social reasoning, morality and art. His previous books include Just Babies and How Pleasure Works, and he has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times, New Yorker and the Guardian. Bloom has won several awards for his research, articles and teaching, and his ‘Introduction to Psychology’ class was one of seven selected by Yale to be made available worldwide. His TED talks have been viewed 2.8 million times.

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Praise for Against Empathy

Brilliant, powerful, and provocative, Against Empathy is sure to be one of the most controversial books of our time

Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

Despite a near consensus about the merits of empathy, Paul Bloom shows that it is often just the warm embrace of prejudice - and, like anger, a reliable source of moral confusion. Against Empathy is a thrilling book, and reading it could well make you a better person

Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith

The title may shock, but this is a book of calm reason and expansive compassion. It's also a pleasure to read: warm, lucid, and thought-provoking

Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

I couldn't put this brilliantly argued book down. Engaging and witty, learned and stim­ulating, provocative and packed with cutting-edge findings, Against Empathy is sure to start many important debates

Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I went in a sceptic and emerged a convert . one of the most thought-provoking, and ultimately convincing, books I've read in a long time

Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game

A brilliant, witty, and convincing defence of rational generosity against its pain-feeling detractors. Read this book and you will never think about empathy, goodness, or cold- blooded reason the same way again

Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning

Plaudits to Bloom for speaking up, not only against the overemphasis on empathy, but also in favour of reason. Bloom takes readers on a stimulating tour of current research in psychology, mixed with some older philosophy, that will educate and entertain readers. A wise and important book.

Peter Singer, author of The Most Good You Can Do

Invigorating, relevant and often very funny

The New York Times

A great, provocative book ... that will legitimately change how you think about the world and your own sense of morality

The New York Times

Bloom's point is a good one ... In a time of post-truth politics, his book offers a much-needed call for facts


A deliberately maverick work - astringent, provocative, often witty and unabashedly against a prevailing culture ... I am staunchly with Bloom

Salley Vickers, Guardian

An interesting and highly topical work of moral philosophy by psychologist . about the ancient conflict between reason and emotion, science and sentiment . an important book

Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

Bloom dismantles the argument that empathy is the basis of all morality . Empathy, it turns out, is sentimental, superficial and racist

New Statesman

Compiles evidence from a range of sources to show that empathy can be innumerate, biased, parochial and inconsistent and can push us towards inaction at best and racism and violence at worst


Wonderfully humane, lucid and entertaining ... a brave and necessary tract for the times


Paul Bloom's wonderfully humane, lucid and entertaining demolition of the empathy-worshippers. is a brave and necessary tract for the times

Paul Bloom, Irish Independent

In Against Empathy, Bloom provides a thoughtful, considered, empirically grounded case which challenges many notions that we often accept as good without really thinking them through. Against Empathy is a wonderfully argued, provocative polemic against the trend to see empathy as an unalloyed good

Kenan Malik, New Humanist

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