This is also, btw, my problem with “high empathy people lack empathy for low empathy people, therefore thinking empathy matters to morality is bad”

If empathy doesn’t matter to morality, why would you care if we have it for you or not?

that is… really not the thing I think people are saying? 

I think what people are saying is “I don’t have empathy (or; I have low empathy) but I make a lot of effort to still be a good person and behave morally, and claims that I can’t be moral unless I have The Proper Feelings no matter what else I might do hurt me (because it is hurtful to be told that my efforts are worthless and that I’m doomed to be inferior forever). Also, people who claim that empathy is critical to morality and that they are therefore morally superior to me, frequently then turn around and demonstrate no care for the harm they’re causing me, so they’re also hypocrites as well as wrong”.

Whereas what I’m hearing is:

“I, a low empathy person, am suspicious and angry when you, a high empathy person, don’t extend your empathy to me. I fear you will treat me in immoral ways.

However, I am incapable of empathy and cannot develop it through skill building.

So if you, a high empathy person, feel suspicious and angry when I don’t extend empathy to you, that is ableism. If you fear I will treat you in immoral ways, you are downright terrible.”

Which parses to me as—I hate this term but it’s the best I can think of when I’m not awake yet—“I get to expect emotional labor from you, but you don’t get to expect it from me.”

Which is lopsided and unfair and likely to get someone hurt.

And my concern about this sort of framework in general is that I think a lot of unhealthy interpersonal relationships look roughly like this: I get to expect a form of support, regard, or caring from you that you can’t expect from me.

I think it’s possible for this kind of friendship or relationship or whatever to work—I’ve heard people say it does for them and that’s fine.

But I think this kind of interpersonal relationship very often doesn’t actually work, because one person having all the emotions related to connectedness and preservation of the relationship while the other just experiences excitement and the like is exhausting, in ways that it might sound easy to prepare for on paper but are profoundly draining in real life.

Which is one reason why “I have aspd” is a dealbreaker for me if someone wants a close friendship (the other is that from my understanding of the diagnostic criteria it’s not supposed to be possible to get the diagnosis if you haven’t done something I’d likely be uncomfortable with a close friend having done.)

Because “I have instinctive regard for you but you don’t have instinctive regard for me” bothers me. I think it sells me short, and I don’t want that in my life.

With all due respect, you are being very judgemental of ASPD & low empathy in general, jumping to several conclusions informed more by stereotypes than personal experience. Low empathy & ASPD are not equivalent to an inability to recognize the moral judgements people are passing; that is often something people are able to (successfully, IMO) approach from a logical perspective. It also doesn’t mean they never feel ANYTHING for anyone, just that it’s lower and less often than normal. And TBH I’m not sure that’s true for ASPD anyway, because the disorder part is important to consider.

I’m also, btw, not low empathy but high empathy, but I would much rather people not pass moral judgements on how much you appear to feel because I have a lot of experience with people manipulating me that way. So. There’s that.

Forgive me if this is kinda rude; do you have BPD? You seem to split on discourse a lot.


“It also doesn’t mean they never feel ANYTHING for anyone, just that it’s lower and less often than normal.”

This is my understanding too, and why I have such trouble with “emotions aren’t part of the moral life.” It seems that they are for everyone except a thought-experiment version of a low empathy person.

That’s why I’m confused by people claiming that morality is a matter of reason alone—it seems like, unless Haidt is not just designing studies poorly but ALSO is misinterpreting or cherry picking other studies, it’s been shown by him and others that the lion’s share of moral action is actually fueled by emotion and instinct, and that (most? All? Not sure) humans only get to moral reasoning once they intentionally try to think through other points of view. Which is something we all can do, and that all of us do sometimes! Just less often than we might AssUMe.

Basically, my opinion is that a lot of smart, thinky humans have assumed for a long time that morality is a product of reason, so it’s understandable that rationalists and adjacent would assume this is true across the board, or that we can meaningfully say “I ignore my emotions most of the time when weighing moral action.”

But, despite the intuitions of smart, thinky humans, it seems that when you actually y study moral action, emotions are more often the driver and reason is more often used post hoc to provide explanations for why the emotion was correct.

My concern, then, about “morality is primarily rational” is that while it’s possible disorders and neurodivergences may make morality primarily rational in particular outliers, that’s not true of most people.

Which to me means that when you claim “my moral action is fueled purely by reason,” you may be and likely are neglecting to consider the role of emotions in your action.

Which gives you an illegitimate leg up in conversation/discourse about morals, because if your opponent admits “emotions are part of why I act this way and not that way” but you don’t, it’s easy to make your opponent LOOK prejudiced or unthoughful when actually she’s just biting a bullet you should also bite but aren’t.

Regarding not trusting someone because they say they have ASPD, it’s important to keep in mind that the criteria for ASPD require behavioural characteristics as well as personality characteristics.

In DSM-IV, the criteria required at least three out of seven symptoms – breaking the law repeatedly, lying excessively, impulsivity, getting into fights regularly, reckless disregard for people’s safety, failure to uphold work/financial responsibilities, and lack of remorse. Of which, basically only three at best be counted as a complete deal-breaker for me trusting someone who does that stuff without regret.

Besides that, both DSM-IV and DSM-V ASPD require that they have met the criteria for conduct disorder before age 15, which requires three out of 15 criteria, with the only non-deal-breakers being three criteria related to running away/skipping class.

So, if they’re accurate in saying they meet criteria for ASPD, then they’re almost certainly saying that they have done some bad things, and that would make me really leery of trusting them.


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