Steven Pinker

The Old Testament tells us to love our neighbors, the New Testament to love our enemies. The moral rationale seems to be: Love your neighbors and enemies; that way you won’t kill them. But frankly, I don’t love my neighbors, to say nothing of my enemies. Better, then, is the following idea: Don’t kill your neighbors or enemies, even if you don’t love them.

2 thoughts on “Steven Pinker

  1. shinichi Post author

    What really has expanded is not so much a circle of empathy as a circle of rights—a commitment that other living things, no matter how distant or dissimilar, be safe from harm and exploitation. Empathy has surely been historically important in setting off epiphanies of concern for members of overlooked groups. But the epiphanies are not enough. For empathy to matter, it must goad changes in policies and norms that determine how the people in those groups are treated. At these critical moments, a newfound sensitivity to the human costs of a practice may tip the decisions of elites and the conventional wisdom of the masses. But as we shall see in the section on reason, abstract moral argumentation is also necessary to overcome the built-in strictures on empathy. The ultimate goal should be policies and norms that become second nature.

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