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The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior$
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David C. Rose

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199781744

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199781744.001.0001

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The Empathy Problem

The Empathy Problem

(p.96) Chapter 6 The Empathy Problem
The Moral Foundation of Economic Behavior

David C. Rose

Oxford University Press

In this chapter, group size is shown to pose a serious problem for combating opportunism through harm-based moral restraint. It explains why, if an individual’s implicit theory of moral propriety maintains that wrongfulness is derived solely from harm, then in large groups many acts of opportunism will simply not feel wrong because there is no harmed person to empathize with. It is shown that neither increasing our concern for others nor increasing our capacity for feeling guilty overcomes this empathy problem. Examples of related forms of the empathy problem are presented. It then shows how the empathy problem can be solved by having moral tastes that attach feelings of guilt to negative moral actions themselves rather than their consequences, thereby producing principled moral restraint rather than merely harm-based moral restraint.

Keywords:   empathy, group size, guilt, moral tastes

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