Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor
and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard
University. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for
publications such as the New York Times, Time and The New Republic, and is
the author of eight books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind
Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, The Stuff of Thought, and most
recently The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
Steven Pinker on Empathy
"The third historical force has been called the expanding circle, this
is a concept that was named by Peter Singer and first endorsed by
Charles Darwin more than a century before. The idea is that evolution
bequeathed us with a sense of empathy. Unfortunately, by default we
apply it only to a narrow circle of family. Over the course of history
you can see the circle of empathy expanding..."
The Limits of Empathy By David
Brooks - New York Times
As Steven Pinker writes in his mind-altering new book, “The Better
Angels of Our Nature,” we are living in the middle of an “empathy
craze.” There are shelf loads of books about it: “The Age of Empathy,”
“The Empathy Gap,” “The Empathic Civilization,” “Teaching Empathy.”
There’s even a brain theory that we have mirror neurons in our heads
that enable us to feel what’s in other people’s heads and that these
neurons lead to sympathetic care and moral action.
- The Baby in the Well, The case against empathy.
By Paul Bloom
- New Yorker “The decline of violence may owe something to an expansion of
empathy,” the psychologist Steven Pinker has written, “but it also
owes much to harder-boiled faculties like prudence, reason, fairness,
self-control, norms and taboos, and conceptions of human rights.” A
reasoned, even counter-empathetic analysis of moral obligation and
likely consequences is a better guide to planning for the future than
the gut wrench of empathy.
He identifies five “inner demons”—sadism, revenge, dominance,
violence in pursuit of a practical benefit, violence in pursuit of an
ideology—that struggle with four “better angels”: self-control, empathy,
morality, and reason.