From the list on the importance of empathy.
Who am I?
I’m a philosopher who has spent much of the past 30 years writing about Adam Smith—widely considered one of the first theorists of empathy. One consequence of spending all that time on Smith is that I came to see how much empathy infused even his work on economics (he is for one thing the first theorist ever to write empathetically about the lives of the poor). I’ve become as a result something of a crusader on behalf of the importance of bringing empathy into social science and policy-making today. Understanding people’s perspectives from within is essential to figuring out who they are and what they need.
Samuel's book list on the importance of empathy
Discover why each book is one of Samuel's favorite books.
Why did Samuel love this book?
I don’t read a lot of creative non-fiction, but I loved this one. It’s a collection of essays that recalls the best of Joan Didion or Tom Wolfe. Minutely observed, crisply written, and suffused with a wry humor, it’s as much fun as a good novel. And the first essay, toggling between the author’s experience as a medical actor (item 31 on the checklist for how medical students handle her supposed conditions: “Voiced empathy for my situation/problem”) and two real medical problems she faced, is all about empathy. Much of the rest of the book deals with empathy too, at least indirectly: in James Agee’s photographs, and in the way Jamison herself enters into the worldviews of drug dealers, extreme marathoners, and participants in a medical cult. But the first essay is squarely on the topic, and it’s fabulous.