Empathy is considered one of the highest virtues, but its time is up; we must replace it with Rationality.
Empathy, for all its commendation, is simply feeling the emotions of others. The context in which we talk about and try to use empathy is when there is pain, suffering, or similar emotions involved; rarely do we speak about it in terms of happy emotions — even though it technically still applies. Sticking with how its commonly used, then, what does feeling the negative emotions of another person actually do for you — other than make you feel equally emotional and most likely, unhappy?
We all want to be peaceful, happy, content, and joyous — most arguments against this are non-starters. We are biologically wired to chase pleasure; we strive to satisfy most of our goals and desires, fundamentally, to make us feel more contented, more happy. Why and what, therefore, is to be gained from inflicting the sufferings and pains of others on one’s own psyche?
Emotions — of any type, but especially the negative type — are powerful things. We know this from our own experience: they cloud our thoughts, affect our decision making, make us happy, make us sad. We cannot really do anything about them; we either observe them or become entangled in them. How, then, does experiencing the emotions of another benefit you or them?
The very fact that you can empathise with another is because you have, at least once in your life, experienced the emotions they are now experiencing; without experiencing for oneself the emotions of another, one cannot empathise. The brain cannot create emotions with which it is not familiar out of thin air; you are able to empathise because you understand the emotions of another, because you’ve ‘been there’.
Who wants to recall bad emotions and feel them once again? Really, the answer is nobody.
The reason people empathise is because they want either to a) comfort someone, or b) understand them, so they can help them. You know that when emotions are present, clear thinking is compromised. You know that — unless you’ve lived under a tree your whole life — with a little thought, you can understand the emotions they’re feeling on a rational plane. And you know that you don’t want to be unhappy. Why, then, instil in yourself the negative emotions of another, when you already know how they’re feeling?
Again, if you think you don’t understand you wouldn’t be able to empathise. If you’re stubborn on this, try recalling a time when you felt shitty, horrible, or similar to how the other person is feeling; now step inside that feeling. If you can feel anything (if you’re an adult and you’re human, you can), you don’t need to empathise.
The better thing is rational compassion: thinking deeply about the emotions of others; having concern for the pains and sufferings of others; feeling sympathetic pity — but always remaining rational, sensible, and logical. This is, in some ways, the total opposite of empathy; in other ways it is no different. You still feel the emotions of another, but you don’t actually feel them. You understand the emotions of another and if necessary you feel sorrow for them, but you don’t step inside their shoes and experience what they’re experiencing. Don’t have moral empathy; have rational compassion.