The problem of pity

Why then am I not indifferent to others’ suffering?

  1. Because I fear becoming weak myself and so want to blunt others’ strength over me = “slave morality”.
  2. When a child sees strangeness, or suffering, or weakness, its feelings are curiosity or disgust. Pity, which comes later, is related to guilt (aren’t you lucky?). There is little of it anyway, and that little punches well below its weight. (The proof is in the pudding in this respect). Nietzsche talked about a system allegedly full of pity and compassion: it’s not such a problem for us.
  3. Do I perhaps want to eliminate others’ suffering so as to rejoice in their flourishing – simply because there is a sheer instinctive joy in this? Life’s dealings scarcely correspond to that. How often is a sheer instinctive joy at others’ flourishing evident in children’s behaviour for example? Furthermore, the sheer instinctive joy at others’ flourishing does not take place when I am suffering – there’s even less of that than there is of pity.

The lack of indifference reflects anxiety about – and fear of – my power.

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