Re: Obligation & Compassion

Kathryn Aegis (
Sun, 14 Sep 1997 11:52:14 +0000

Frederick Mann:
>"I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the
>sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
>John Galt in 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand

Is John Galt really talking about benevolence here? This passage seems to
refer to values of loyalty or subservience.

>That someone says, "I have no obligation to help another," says
>absolutely nothing about whether that person has compassion or not.

Yes. In fact, social scientists who study benevolence rarely link
the two, because a new view of benevolence is emerging. Within the
context of the set of personal or group relationships affected by it,
an act of benevolence can be viewed as an investment with a
future return, as a method of cementing community relationships, or
as a method of expressing one's social status. One could go so far
as to state that no one gives anyone anything without some
expectation of some sort of tangible or intangible future return,
thus calling into question the entire concept of compassion. The
idea of compassion may be a holdover from earlier times when we
humans did not fully understand (or want to face!) our own
motivations for acting in a benevolent manner.


Kathryn Aegis