Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement

– Bertrand Russell

Saturday, 26 June 2021
Event 20: Whose shoes do you choose?

In 2006 and all throughout his POTUS tenure, Obama warns of an ‘empathy deficit’ – an endemic inability to stand in another’s shoes and see through another person’s eyes. Immediately following this, his successor, according to Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom, harnesses in abundance the empathy bias of voting Americans and secures political victory.  What is going on here? Do we have too much or too little empathy in the world? Is there some Goldilocks zone where our empathic powers are optimised for a planetary flourishing of goodness? Or perhaps it is not a matter of how much, but ‘simply’ of how we understand, direct and are directed by this phenomenon that connects people through shared wavelengths of emotion.

What do we mean by empathy? What sort and how much of it do we actually need to make the world a better place?

Photo by Mika on Unsplash

Past events

Gentle Thinkers conversations in Karlsruhe began in March 2019. Here are our past conversations.

We believe in real-life conversations

They give us an opportunity to practice treasured skills, like listening, reflection and rational thinking.  A purposefully created conversation can be a tool for connecting with people outside of our usual social circles and allow us to learn more about the different ways we each experience the world.


Conversations are inherently two-way. They are not simply a process of speaking and then waiting to speak again. When we actively listen, we suspend judgment and we make ourselves present to receive the verbal and non-verbal messages shared with us. We give conscious space and attention to a fellow human being and enable a voice to be heard that is not our own.


Reflection is possible when we engage with the information we have received. It is a process available to each of us when we get curious about the information we consume. Through reflection, we see the meaning and the life we have added to the sounds we hear and the visual cues we observe.


We believe that the most engaging conversations involve a balance of feedback, further questioning, validation and co-creation. When we draw upon the open-minded, courteous, adventurous parts of ourselves, we get to explore each other’s ideas as responsible and reciprocal meaning-making beings.

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