Re: Compassion vs. benevolence

Richard Plourde (
Tue, 16 Sep 1997 02:03:54 -0400

At 06:00 PM 9/15/97 -0700, Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

>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
>Rather than "suffering with", which accomplishes nothing, to
desire the
>end of others' suffering is a prerequisite of acting to end it.

I find myself inclined to agree with your recharacterization of
the usage of the term "compassion" (it agrees with the usage that
I take as most common). On the other hand, I cannot help but
disagree with your assertion that a *desire* to end suffering is a
prerequisite of acting to end it.

I see too many counter-examples where actions taken from the
desire to end suffering tend to increase what I see as suffering,
and where actions apparently based on an indifference to suffering
have, as a part-consequence, a reduction in suffering.

This may seem overly 'picky', but it does seem to me that we can
find a fundamental difference between "what I intend is what
happens" and "from what happens, I can learn what to expect."

The first seems closely related to assumption (and probably what
many of us call 'idealism' -- albeit not Platonic idealism), and
the second to science. From what I can tell, science has the
better track record.


Richard Plourde ..

"The word is not the thing, the map is not the territory"