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Cross Post: IAI debate, ‘Doing Right and Feeling Good’

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Zero Degrees of Empathy author Simon Baron-Cohen, philosopher Peter Dews and Oxford Transhumanist Anders Sandberg dispute how to be good.

We think empathising with others is the route to a better world. But studies show that empathy encourages us to help one named child over ten anonymous others. Is morality perhaps not about empathy at all? Does the moral way to act have more to do with thinking than feeling, or is empathy a vital force for good?

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  1. Is morality perhaps not about empathy at all?

    Empathy is the emotion that generates the genetically-determined mutually beneficial (more often than not and in the long run) helping behavior to be seen in non-human mammals and among people, though in the latter case more or less heavily modified by morality. The belief that spontaneous empathic behavior is the same as morality is a popular misconception propagated by people such as the ethologist, Frans de Waal. Morality is a set of rules established within a community that promote productive cooperative behavior among strangers. Francis Fukuyama, explains this nicely in the “Origins of Political Order.”

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