Simon Baron-Cohen, expert in autism and developmental psychopathology, has always wanted to isolate and understand the factors that cause people to treat others as if they were mere objects. In this book he proposes a radical shift, turning the focus away from evil and on to the central factor, empathy. Unlike the concept of evil, he argues, empathy has real explanatory power.
Putting empathy under the microscope he explores four new ideas: firstly, that we all lie somewhere on an empathy spectrum, from high to low, from six degrees to zero degrees. Secondly that, deep within the brain lies the 'empathy circuit'. How this circuit functions determines where we lie on the empathy spectrum. Thirdly, that empathy is not only something we learn but that there are also genes associated with empathy. And fourthly, while a lack of empathy leads to mostly negative results, is it always negative?
Full of original research, Zero Degrees of Empathy presents a new way of understanding what it is that leads individuals down negative paths, and challenges all of us to consider replacing the idea of evil with the idea of empathy-erosion.
Bringing cruelty triumphantly into the realm of science, this pioneering journey into human nature at last delivers us from 'evil'.
A compelling and provocative account of empathy as our most precious social resource. Lack of empathy lurks in the darkest corners of human history and Simon Baron Cohen does not shrink from looking at them under the fierce light of science.
Simon Baron-Cohen combines his creative talent with evidence and reason to make the case that evil is essentially a failure of empathy. It is an understanding that can enlighten an old debate and hold out the promise of new remedies.
A book that gets to the heart of man's inhumanity to man... Baron-Cohen has made a major contribution to our understanding of autism
Ground-breaking and important...This humane and immensely sympathetic book calls us to the task of reinterpreting aberrant human behaviour so that we might find ways of changing it for the better...The effect...is not to diminish the concept of human evil, but to demystify it
Fascinating and disturbing
Isn't it lucky...that the very people who can't put themselves into other people's shoes, have a champion [in Simon Baron-Cohen] who, by dint of his curiosity, has turned it into an art form?
Attractively humane...fascinating information about the relation between degrees of empathy and the state of our brains.
Easy to read and packed with anecdotes. The author conveys brain research with verve.