The Science of Evil
On Empathy and the Origins of CrueltyBook - 2011
In The Science of Evil Simon Baron-Cohen, an award-winning British researcher who has investigated psychology and autism for decades, develops a new brain-based theory of human cruelty. A true psychologist, however, he examines social and environmental factors that can erode empathy, including neglect and abuse.
Based largely on Baron-Cohen's own research, The Science of Evil will change the way we understand and treat human cruelty.
From the critics
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I found myself getting annoyed (as I often do with books of this kind) by what I perceived as a reductive, literal-minded positivism. Yet, there are very important concepts here such as what Baron-Cohen calls the "internal pot of gold". HIs phrase refers to the invaluable nurturing a child receives from her caregivers. My irritation was relieved at the end by his critique of psychiatry and his moving examples of empathy in action. More of this earlier would have relieved the technical/clinical focus. That said, it's a remarkable and significant book.
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"Empathy is a universal solvent. Any problem immersed in empathy becomes soluble. It is an effective way of anticipating and resolving interpersonal problems, whether it is a marital conflict, an international conflict, a problem at work, difficulties in a friendship, political deadlocks, a family dispute or a problem with a neighbor...this resource is a better way to resolve problems than the alternatives (such as guns, law, or religion). And unlike the arms industry which costs trillions of dollars to maintain, or the prison industry and the legal system, which cost millions of dollars to keep oiled, empathy is free. And unlike religion, empathy cannot by definition oppress anyone" (p. 186).
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