Re: Compassion vs. benevolence

Max More (
Mon, 15 Sep 1997 19:11:43 -0700

At 06:00 PM 9/15/97 -0700, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:
>> Benevolence forms parts of a rational, critical approach to values in a way
>> that compassion does not as far as I can see.
>While I certainly agree that there is no honor in "suffering with", I
>think the word "compassion" has a useful referent not inconsistent with
>its etymology and usage here: "to desire that others not suffer."
>That's a simple value judgment, and I think a completely rational one.

Agreed. As usual, words have more than one meaning. I have no problem with
"compassion" in this sense -- it becomes part of what I mean by
benevolence. Still I prefer the latter since it doesn't (for me at least)
connote undesirable behaviors.

BTW, when I said that some recent posts did not make the distinction
between compassion and benevolence, I certainly wasn't including Kathryn's.
Her post nicely distinguished them.

>That in particular is one of the quite valid criticisms of Rand: that
>she willfully evades the reality that success is often as much a product
>of blind luck as it is of work. While a rational man would not suffer
>faced with such misfortune, many others do, and desiring to end their
>suffering can have valuable consequences.

I mentioned in an earlier post Nietzsche's suggestion that generosity can
come from not pity but from an overflowing of power and well-being.
Similarly, I suspect that psychological healthy people, having removed
their own suffering, will often be inclined to exercise some of their
talents on those who still suffer (at least where they can do this with
some chance of success). They may do this partly for the directly
self-interested reasons you mention, or simply because it's a rewarding and
challenging exercise of their talents.


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