Thanks for this excellent piece.
I agree that who we include in our empathic circle is a crucial issue. I tend to think that it’s what differentiates leftwing from rightwing people. Leftwing persons would tend to care about a wider range of people, while rightwing persons would be more centered on people close to them.
It’s also crucial from the point of view of animal right.
But maybe we shouldn’t leave this question open, as something that can be adjusted as a function of each person’s preferences. In fact, at one extreme of the spectrum we have the sociopath who cares only about his own good. At the other extreme, we have empathy towards every sentient being. This is still bounded to organisms that have feeling, which means we need to estimate how much a given organism is able to “feel”. Thus this is still imperfect, given our limited capacity to estimate consciousness, but at least it provides us with a clear guideline. So I think an action should be judged as a function of the good and bad consequences it has on every organism that has conscious perception of it.