In his essay ‘The woman in the mirror,’ Frank Huyler (2013) describes his encounter with a hostile patient in the emergency room. The patient is drunk, homeless, and seriously ill—the kind of patient health care professionals receive with dread. Empathy for the patient, the supposed lubricant of medical interactions, is glaringly absent. And yet, this should not limit the physician’s ability to act. There are times, Huyler concludes, when we must provide the best possible care even when we feel no empathy whatsoever. Although Huyler makes no mention in his essay of Paul Bloom (2016), Jesse Prinz (2011) or social psychologists, moral philosophers and others who have written critically of empathy, he is tapping into an intriguing ‘anti-empathy’ discourse that has recently flared in the popular press as well as in the academic literature.