Past Meetup

The Ethics Table: The anti-empathy, anti-humane, anti-personal folk

This Meetup is past

5 people went


It's become popular in some intellectual circles to be anti-empathy, anti-humane, or anti-personal. You can read it in the New Yorker (, for instance. According to this school of thought, if it can be called that, the following kinds of claims are true:

(i) Empathy is mostly bad.

(ii) Seeing someone as a fellow human is morally indecisive and generally unimportant.

(iii) Recognizing people as people is morally ambivalent and has nothing to add to moral judgment.

The problem with most of these views is that they are shallow and false. They take straw-men as their opponents, are often historically uninformed about the moral traditions they are criticizing, and often do not deal carefully with obvious counterexamples. Yet they are popular. At the very least, they are spectacular.

In this Ethics Table meeting, we will discuss the anti-empathy, anti-humane, anti-personal folks, reconstructing their positions with help from those who have read them, and criticizing their positions to bring us closer to the real philosophical questions under them:

(a) What is the role of empathy in moral personhood?

(b) What is the role of the virtue of humanity in post-Enlightenment moral history (such as the human rights tradition)?

(c) What is the status of recognition of people as people in social justice? What does it mean to be a person or for people to be, together, people?

Along the way, we will learn about conflating biological concepts with social ones, the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions, and the difference between psychological tendencies and developed habits. And we will learn something about the post-Enlightenment tradition of "humanity" as well as the aesthetics of acknowledging "people."


This is a regular meeting of the Ethics Table ( The topic will be announced as it evolves. All from the community are welcome. Please respect CWRU community norms as well.

The meeting takes place in the first floor lounge, to the left of the entrance. Coffee and baklava are served. Please bring your own lunch if you wish.