Fritz Breithaupt is Provost
Professor at Indiana University Bloomington. He founded and directs the
Experimental Humanities Laboratory at IU. He is author of the book,
The Dark Sides of Empathy.
Fritz argues that some of the dark sides of empathy include; self-loss,
side taking, identifying with the helper, sadistic empathy and vampiristic
empathy. Edwin argues that empathy is light and the so-called dark sides
are not empathy, but blocks to empathy.
Fritz says (and Edwin agrees)
that a benefit of empathy is;
intensifies our experiences and widens the scope of our perceptions. We
feel more than we could with-out it, and it enables us to participate more
fully in the lives of others, even fictional characters."
is, of course, a critical factor in healthy long-term relationships, too,
making it easier for us to understand our family members or romantic
partners and anticipate their emotional needs and reactions. Love without
empathy would be a sad thing for most people."
Many consider empathy to be the basis of moral action. However, the
ability to empathize with others is also a prerequisite for deliberate
acts of humiliation and cruelty. In The
Dark Sides of Empathy, Fritz Breithaupt contends that people often
commit atrocities not out of a failure of empathy but rather as a direct
consequence of over-identification and a desire to increase empathy. Even
well-meaning compassion can have many unintended consequences, such as
intensifying conflicts or exploiting others.
Empathy plays a central part in a variety of highly problematic behaviors.
From mere callousness to terrorism, exploitation to sadism, and emotional
vampirism to stalking, empathy all too often motivates and promotes
After tracing the development of empathy as an idea in
German philosophy, Breithaupt looks at a wide-ranging series of case
studies―from Stockholm syndrome to Angela Merkel's refugee policy and from
novels of the romantic era to helicopter parents and murderous cheerleader
moms―to uncover how narcissism, sadism, and dangerous celebrity obsessions
alike find their roots in the quality that, arguably, most makes us human.
1. Self Loss
2. Painting in Black and White
3. False Empathy, Filtered Empathy
4. Empathetic Sadism
5. Vampiristic Empathy
Epilogue: Empathy between Morality and Aesthetics
Empathy is on the decline. This may not be as bad as it sounds
July 26, 2019
I recently showed a YouTube clip to my class of 100+ college students,
where a high-schooler complained bitterly about how hard he had to work.
He claimed he would need to toil until 9 pm that night to complete his
homework, and he doubted he could pull it off. The students in my class
burst out laughing. Even the most sympathetic student in my class had a
hard time expressing empathy, even though they believed the student’s
suffering was sincere. Empathy is under pressure these days. This should
come as no surprise.
"Dr. Breithaupt is known for his research in the fields of empathy,
human narratives, and moral reasoning. His most recent publication, “The
Dark Sides of Empathy,” takes a closer, more nuanced look at what drives
human empathy for one another, and some of the underlying effects of
this phenomenon around the world. "
Empathy makes us human, I'm not against it, we should know the costs.
Empathy associated with self loss.
Doctors suffer exhaustion from over empathizing with their patients.
Bad for people we empathize with.
taking - take a side in a conflict
a side and identify with a side and
it can be good or bad to the extremes;
you torture the person.
used in bullying or embarrassing.
live vicariously through others.
for fans can lead to stalking
helicopter parents. - live their life through their kids.
they suck out the blood of their kids.
leads to parental control so they can live their life though
Effect of Empathy on Migration Issues
factor to open the boarders
drowned boy photo
was done as the
identifying as the hero
waver over time?
empathy is good
for short term
want to return
bridging political divides
said we need empathy for conflict resolution but that has not panned
people take a
side. (take the side of empathy)
a side.. they have empathy for their side. (the in-groups can be
South Africa -
truth and reconciliation doesn't use empathy
How to prevent un
intended consequences of empathy.
he is not
against empathy, helps us get out of our own life.
we should have
just be aware
of the costs
Empathy with one
person you may neglect the other.
This paper proposes a three-step model of empathy. It assumes that
people have various empathy related mechanisms available and thus can be
described as hyper-empathic
1). Under these conditions, the question of blocking and controlling
empathy becomes a central issue to channel empathic attention and to
2). It is assumed that empathy can be sustained only when these
mechanisms of controlling empathy are bypassed
(Step 3). In particular, the paper proposes a three- person scenario
with one observing a conflict of two others. By taking the side of one
of the combatants, the observer is led into empathizing, perhaps to
justify her earlier side-taking.
Not necessarily, according to author Fritz
"Sometimes we commit atrocities not out of a failure of empathy but
rather as a direct consequence of successful, even overly successful,
empathy," he writes in his forthcoming book The
Dark Sides of Empathy.
Breithaupt, who directs the Experimental
Humanities Lab at
Indiana University, argues that empathy is a morally ambiguous capacity,
one that can lead us astray if we don't understand its many sides.
Does Empathy Have A Dark Side?
April 12, 2019
"Since empathy is baked into our very being, Breithaupt argues that we
must be aware of the good and bad it can enable. NPR's Jonathan Lambert
spoke with him about empathy's biological and moral dimensions.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. How does
science define empathy, and what light does that shed on on more
philosophical conceptions of it?"
p226 "...the reward for embracing empathy is the enrichment and
intensification of our aesthetic perception of the world around us and
the emotional experience within ourselves and others."
Widening Experience "we can still cherish how empathy widens the scope of our experience,
dramatically and enables a rich and complex coexperiencing of our
p220 "Empathy intensifies our experiences and widens the scope of our
perceptions. We feel more than we could with-out it, and it enables us
to participate more fully in the lives of others, even fictional
characters. This form of engagement can be described in terms of
aesthetic experience and the deepening of our emotions and it provides
storing reasons to teach and cherish empathy."
Increased Understanding p201 "Empathy is, of course, a critical factor in healthy long-term
relationships, too, making it easier for us to understand our family
members or romantic partners and anticipate their emotional needs and
reactions. Love without empathy would be a sad thing for most
Increased Aesthetic Perception p223 "More specifically, empathy increases our aesthetic perception in
three interrelated ways:..."