The danger of ethics without empathy

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The relationship between morality and emotion has divided thinkers for centuries. Most contemporary ethical systems demand impartiality; that we should not allow emotion, particularly empathy, to distract us from doing what is morally right. In this article, Heidi L. Maibom rejects this position. Here, she argues that empathy is both an essential and necessary tool to understanding human nature, and provides a blueprint for how we should devise our moral systems.  To most people, it seems obvious that empathy has something important to do with morality. After all, when we feel with someone who suffers, we often think it is wrong that the person suffers, and if someone has caused their suffering, we tend to think they were wrong to do so. Saints, like Saint Francis or Mother Theresa, are typically moved by their concern for the suffering of others. And I, at least, use my empathy as a moral guide. If I empathize with the suffering of caged anima…

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