Ignaas Devisch / Ignaas Devisch – The Excess of Empathy

Ignaas Devisch – The Excess of Empathy

Ignaas Devisch – The Excess of Empathy

 About the book


Is empathy always good? Can we have too much of it?


What is that, empathy? Empathy is the power to imagine an feel what you believe to be another person’s experience.
In a time in which social contrasts and social inequality are coming to the fore, there are loud calls for more empathy. From Barack Obama and Angela Merkel to Jesse Klaver, many regard the human ability to put ourselves in another person’s place as a driving force behind morality and a tried and tested remedy for indifference. But is empathy always good? At the level of personal relationships it is, but empathy is not a miracle cure that will solve all social problems. A degree of indifference is desirable, sometimes even a dire necessity.


*Shortlisted for the Socrates Cup 2018 for best Dutch philosophy book of the year*


In this book Ignaas Devisch guides the reader through the history of thinking about empathy, taking examples from current debates about society as his starting point. He challenges us to think about our view of humanity: deep down, aren’t we all not just friends but scoundrels as well?

Press on previous work:

Devisch makes a stand for passion, creativity and dreams; positive concerns that are the result of that ever persistent push forward. Restlessness is neither a fiction nor a self-help book, but rather a startlingly and stunningly written essay on how we can relate to that hectic changing world – from the jury report, BEST SPIRITUAL BOOK AWARD 2016.

Restlessness is an exceptionally accessible and multidimensional book about a theme that nevertheless remains a main feature of Western culture. Devisch wishes to describe rather than moralise, though in his plea for a restless, creative and passionate existence the moral peeks at us from around the corner. But then that’s also the charm of this book. **** - TROUW

An extremely worthwhile read. As well as a philosophical and historical exploration of troubling feelings, Devisch extends to us something we can grasp in order to pull ourselves out of the morass. - KNACK


Ignaas Devisch (b. 1970) is professor of ethics, philosophy and medical philosophy at the University of Ghent and the Artevelde College. He publishes in the fields of social, medical and political philosophy. His critical essay about medicalization, Sick of Health, was published by De Bezige Bij in 2013. His book Restlessness, which critically examined today’s obsession with finding balance in our lives, won the best Spiritual Book Award in 2016.

© Koen Broos

Additional book information

  • Philosophy
  • ISBN 9789023449812
  • Number of pages: 192
  • World rights: De Bezige Bij
  • Price: € 19,99