Compassion vs. benevolence

Max More (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 16:18:21 -0700

Some recent posts seem to make no distinction between compassion and
benevolence. Personally, I have little room for compassion which means
"suffering with". Sometimes I do suffer with others but I don't see that as
really desirable or admirable. When carried very far it becomes unhealthy
and distinctly pathological, as in the martyr complex.

Benevolence, by contrast, has nothing to do with suffering in sympathy.
Benevolence involves civility, sensitivity, and generosity. All of these
values are, I believe, compatible with intelligent self-interest. Actually
that puts it too weakly: In most circumstances benevolence is part of what
it takes to act in one's true self-interest. (I say "in most circumstances"
because this virtue may break down in extreme situations of survival.)

Benevolence forms parts of a rational, critical approach to values in a way
that compassion does not as far as I can see.


Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute:,