First, the Science of Empathy according to Jeremy Rifkin.
To the Buddhist in me, empathy is enshrined in the Principle of Compassion, one of the core Buddhist principles I have believed in, and have been a proponent of, all my life.
The Principle of Compassion assumes a couple things about life.
Firstly, that life’s journey is one that each one of us is on. In other words, we are all on the same boat and making the same journey. Where we are going, what we are searching for, where we hope to end up, and find, ultimately–they all may be different.
Secondly, each one of us has but one life to live. How we choose to live is often dictated by the circumstances and conditions we create and/or find ourselves in. But make no mistake, we are all doing our utmost to live the best way we know or can, with our own particular personal issues and problems to contend with.
In recognition of all that, the Principle of Compassion dictates that our actions as a human being, if they in any way involve, or directly affect others, must by necessity change those circumstances and conditions in a positive way–i.e. those actions must alleviate the suffering or anguish of others. (In doing so, an individual alleviates his own suffering and anguish, which is what Karma is all about.)
If that is not possible, then it requires that one at the very least not cause more suffering. That is Compassion; the act of empathising with the rest of humanity about life’s journey and the realities of life, the human condition.
If, on the other hand, ones actions cause more suffering, then since we are all on the same boat, the journey becomes so much more unbearable and longer for everyone. Even the one who causes it suffers as a consequence (again as per the law of Karma).