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Empathy, Sympathy, Care



STEPHEN DARWALL (Accepted 31 July 1997) Mencius famously remarked: No man is devoid of a heart sensitive to the suffering of others : : : Suppose a man were, all of a sudden, to see a young child on the verge of falling into a well. He would certainly be moved to compassion.1 What Mencius’s translator calls compassion is an instance of what I shall call sympathetic concern or sympathy. It is a feeling or emotion that (a) responds to some apparent threat or obstacle to an individual’s good or well-being, (b) has that individual himself as object, and (c) involves concern for him, and thus for his well-being, for his sake. Seeing the child on the verge of falling, one is concerned for his safety, not just for its (his safety’s) sake, but for his sake. One is concerned for him. Sympathy for the child is a way of caring for (and about) him. Sympathy differs in this respect from several distinct psychological phenomena usually collected under the term ‘empathy’, which need not involve such concern. Common to these are feelings that, as one psychologist puts it, are “congruent with the other’s emotional state or condition.”2 Here



Philosophical StudiesSpringer Journals

Published: Mar 1, 1998

DOI: 10.1023/A:1004289113917

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