Dialogues with Mr. X

geAnaximander: For a society to function successfully perhaps there needs to be a level of empathy that cannot be  corrupted.

Examiner: Are you saying a society wracked by plague is preferable to one wracked by indifference?

Me: What is the alternative to empathy? Empathy can make one weak but is sympathy acceptable? Or is apathy the best possible option?

Mr. X: I am from the school of Rand. Rational self interest is the key to the advancement of a prosperous society,r

Me: So….that’s apathy?

Mr. X: I think real empathy can make for a peaceful society, but not a prosperous one.

Me: But you don’t live your own life apathetically.

Mr. X: In so much as I am apathetic to the plight of anyone but myself? I guess so… I believe by pursuing our own interests we are pursuing the interest of society as a whole.The interests  and plights of others only matter in so much as it affects me.

I strive to make other people happy because it makes me happy; I don’t feel their emotion. I only do something because it benefits me. I think everyone lives that way but most won’t admit it.

Every human emotional transaction is run through a cost benefit analysis. What is rational to us is what we choose to pursue. But it is hard to prove this because human values differ so widely.

If we are talking simple “you feel good, I feel good” definition of empathy I can see now that would be ideal. However, I think that ;leaves out a critical step that identifies how your emotion becomes my emotion. if it is simple osmosis then humans are not so complex.


Join the dialogue.


  1. Interesting hypothesis, but one I would have to disagree with. While I do agree that helping others has a side benefit of increasing our happiness or well-being, I do think that some people are capable of truly empathizing with others. I think a society in which everyone was only helping others when or because it benefits themselves would be a sad place indeed. Interesting discussion!


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