What is the circle of empathy? Empathy, as we all know, is the capacity to feel (or at least recognize) emotions in other entities that have emotions. Many people believe that this capacity is in fact shared by many types of animals. The “circle of empathy” is a boundary within which each individual places the things he or she empathizes with. Usually, this only includes people and possibly certain animals, but is unlikely to include inanimate objects, and very rarely plants or microbes. This circle is intensely personal, however. (Psychopaths, for example, seem to have no circle of empathy whatsoever.) Incidentally, I thought I had invented the term, but it turns out that Jaron Lanier has used it before me in a similar fashion, as has the bioethicist Peter Singer. What I would like to discuss here is the evolution of our circle of empathy over time, what this trend says about us, and think about where this might lead us in the long run.
read the entire article via Spherical Harmonics: The evolution of the circle of empathy.