“You’re not a rockstar and I’m not an angel either, and that’s why we need each other, and that’s why we need empathy, actually.” – Fritz Breithaupt

Today I interviewed Fritz Breithaupt.

Fritz Breithaupt is a provost professor at Indiana University, Bloomington since 1996, since 2010 as a full professor of Germanic Studies, an adjunct professor of Comparative Literature, and an affiliate professor of Cognitive Science. He co-founded the European Union Center at Indiana University in 2005 and served as its co-director until 2007. In Germany, he is most well known outside of academic circles as a columnist for ZEIT Campus magazine and the author of the recurring feature “Frag den Prof” (“Ask the professor”). In 2009-10, he was the distinguished Remak Scholar of Indiana University. He has twice (in 2003 and 2009) won the grant of the Alexander von Humboldt foundation, which is “granted in recognition of a researcher’s entire achievements to date to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.”

His 2017 book The Dark Sides of Empathy, which we will talk about today, offers an analysis of Donald Trump’s technique to draw empathy to himself. The book appeared on the German bestseller list in February 2017 (Spiegel-Bestseller Liste).

In this episode we speak about:

  • How empathy is not always a good thing and people can often be oppressed in the process. A healthy dose of cynicism is often good!
  • Emotion sharing does not always lead to empathy.
  • The reaction towards the German Refugee Crisis showed us that empathy isn’t always based in reality.
  • Donald Trump has changed the American dream to be a victim hero.
  • You need to be careful in using empathy in conflict resolution.
  • Sadistic empathy can explain dinner table screaming matches.

Then my DAD comes in and tells Fritz that he wrote the book of his life.

To catch up with our guest: