George Monbiot on humans and the aftermath of terrorism:
This norm – cooperating with unrelated members of our own species – is, as a review article in the journal Frontiers in Psychology notes, “spectacularly unusual when compared [with] other animals.” It is a norm that is also innate. Empathy, the paper explains, appears to exist even in the earliest stages of infancy. Newborn babies become distressed by the cries of other babies. By the time they are 14 months old, children try to alleviate other people’s distress, by comforting or helping them, or by sharing possessions with them.
Unlike any other species (as far as we know), we are also able to imagine the emotional state of people we cannot talk to, or even see, and can place ourselves in their minds. This is why we enjoy novels and films: without this capacity, stories would be dead to us, as our emotions would not resonate with those of the characters.
Entirely so of course but it’s all a bit Adam Smith, isn’t it? We could get to the same point, the exact same point, by quoting a little from Theory of Moral Sentiments. And it’s one of the reasons why the market system as in Wealth of Nations works.
But the wouldn’t George be surprised to hear that Adam Smith beat him to it?