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HAT Forum - "The Dark Side of Empathy"

  • The 519, Room 303 519 Church Street Toronto, ON, M4Y 2C9 Canada (map)

Watch a TED talk, read a blog, self-help book or magazine article and it's very likely you will find someone singing the praises of Empathy. If the Beatles were writing today, Lennon and McCartney would have us singing "All You Need is Empathy". Some would have us indeed believe that Empathy is an unalloyed good, a nostrum to cure all the ills of the world. But is this really the case? And can one make the case for the Dark Side of Empathy without being considered a Monster? We'll see this week.

  • What are the limits of empathy? What are the biases?
  • For whom should we have empathy? Are there people with whom we should not empathize?
  • Many people distinguish between “emotional empathy” and “cognitive empathy”? What are the differences?
  • For moral behaviour, empathy is a necessary but not sufficient condition. Discuss.
  • Our emotions can be “primed” and influenced by irrelevant factors like the colour of the wall or the smell of the room. If empathy is an emotional process, how is it a reliable guide to our behaviour if it can be so easily distorted?
  • In your life, how has empathy made you a better person or a lack of empathy made you act badly or not at all? Do you know a time when you were a ‘victim’ of too much empathy?

NOTE: The HAT Forum adheres strictly to the City of Toronto Policy on Non-Discrimination (




Earlier Event: April 28