The Empathy Problem

David C. Rose

in The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199781744
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919116 | DOI:
The Empathy Problem

Show Summary Details


In this chapter, group size is shown to pose a serious problem for combating opportunism through harm-based moral restraint. It explains why, if an individual’s implicit theory of moral propriety maintains that wrongfulness is derived solely from harm, then in large groups many acts of opportunism will simply not feel wrong because there is no harmed person to empathize with. It is shown that neither increasing our concern for others nor increasing our capacity for feeling guilty overcomes this empathy problem. Examples of related forms of the empathy problem are presented. It then shows how the empathy problem can be solved by having moral tastes that attach feelings of guilt to negative moral actions themselves rather than their consequences, thereby producing principled moral restraint rather than merely harm-based moral restraint.

Keywords: empathy; group size; guilt; moral tastes

Chapter.  8890 words. 

Subjects: Economics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.