Elementary Empathy

Nov 21 2012 @ 8:57am

Maria Konnikova praises the cold rationalist Sherlock Holmes as the paragon of empathy:

Sterilised empathy might not be sterilised so much as expanded, from an emotional ability to an essential element in creativity and problem-solving. The emotional element in empathy is itself a limited one. It is selective and often prejudicial — we tend to empathise more with people whom we know or perceive to be like us, or simply when we have more mental space to bother. Empathy can be all the more powerful and creative in its cognitive form when it is independent of context and emotional outpouring.

Sherlock Holmes might be described as cold, it’s true. But who would you like on your side when it comes to being given a fair say, to being helped when that help is truly needed, to knowing that someone will go above and beyond the call of duty for your sake, no matter who you are or what you might have done? I, for one, would choose the cool-headed Holmes, who understands the limits of human emotions, and who seeks to ‘represent justice,’ so far as his ‘feeble powers allow’.