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On compassion

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  • ELEN BUZARE
    Dear all, I have just finished to read the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler s _The art of Hapiness_. I found in this book many sensible arguments in favour of the
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 1 12:54 AM
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      Dear all,


      I have just finished to read the Dalai Lama and Howard
      Cutler 's _The art of Hapiness_. I found in this book
      many sensible arguments in favour of the compassion
      feeling that I wish to explain.
      Compassion(or pity) may be defined as a feeling which
      induce someone to share another one sufferings.
      In ancient Stoicism, "pity" belonged to the passion
      called "distress". Pity was consequently an excessive
      emotion to eliminate because feeling another one
      distress was considered as an undeserved distress.
      The Dalai Lama, however holds that there is a
      qualitative difference between your own distress and
      the one he may feel in a compasionnate state.
      When you think to your own distress, you generally
      feel completely overwhelmed and powerless. You see but
      your own sufferings (Indeed, this is something I
      observed).
      Generating compassion may arouse, at first sight, a
      certain uneasyness. However, accepting another one
      distress creates a sensation of communication as well
      as a will to go towards others.It is so completely
      different from other forms of distress.
      Furthermore, many scientific studies (exposed in the
      book I refered above) showed that acting
      compassionately increase you chances of having a long,
      happy and healthy life.

      I really would like to know what is your sentiment
      about this subject. Do you think it is worth changing
      Ancient Stoicism on this point. If yes, as there is no
      goog feeling equivalent to distress, where should we
      include compassion?

      Yours sincerely,

      Elen



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    • periklessolon@netscape.net
      Elen raises one of the central issues in stoicism: whether and on what terms, the sapiens can engage the distress, misfortune and powerlessness of another. On
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 1 10:56 PM
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        Elen raises one of the central issues in stoicism: whether and on what terms, the sapiens can engage the distress, misfortune and powerlessness of another.
        On the one hand it seems to be consistent with our nature of social creatures that we do have some form of engagement; but it is true that the wrong sort of engagement can lead to vice and not be a display of virtue at all.
        Seneca's De Clementia is rich in argument about the interplay and distinction between these stances of engagement: mercy, compassion and pity.
        To my mind, in English at least, we make a distinction between pity, which is from a suprerior looking down to an inferior, and revelling in the power structure, and mercy and compassion.
        All require a power structure. However, in the case of pity, the actor in the powerful position uses it to look down upon to less powerful; the very powerlessness of the other is enjoyed and the person feeling pity feels a superiority to the inferior. 'Lording it over another' is an expression we might use.
        Mercy and compassion do not involve as a matter of necessity, the person in the powerful position revelling or wallowing in their power. Rather, they involve using the power - where possible - to help the other. Compassion has an additional element - it involves not merely taking a stance that is positive to the other - but feeling for the other, in a way that mercy does not.
        The stopic sapiens would approve mercy, as Seneca argues, but not pity; and probably not compassion.
        However, I believe tha the stoic sapiens could feel compassion so long as it does not undermin his/her capacity to see and judge the circumstances accurately and respond accordingly.
        Indeed, it may be a sign of virtue to feel for another troubles, but nevertheless keep them in perspective.
        vale,
        PS
        stoics@yahoogroups.com wrote:
        >
        > Dear all,
        >
        >
        > I have just finished to read the Dalai Lama and Howard
        > Cutler 's _The art of Hapiness_. I found in this book
        > many sensible arguments in favour of the compassion
        > feeling that I wish to explain.
        > Compassion(or pity) may be defined as a feeling which
        > induce someone to share another one sufferings.
        > In ancient Stoicism, "pity" belonged to the passion
        > called "distress". Pity was consequently an excessive
        > emotion to eliminate because feeling another one
        > distress was considered as an undeserved distress.
        > The Dalai Lama, however holds that there is a
        > qualitative difference between your own distress and
        > the one  he may feel in a compasionnate state.
        > When you think to your own distress, you generally
        > feel completely overwhelmed and powerless. You see but
        > your own sufferings (Indeed, this is something I
        > observed).
        > Generating compassion  may arouse, at first sight, a
        > certain uneasyness. However, accepting another one
        > distress creates a sensation of communication as well
        > as a will to go towards others.It is so completely
        > different from other forms of distress.
        > Furthermore, many scientific studies (exposed in the
        > book I refered above) showed that acting
        > compassionately increase you chances of having a long,
        > happy and healthy life.
        >
        > I really would like to know what is your sentiment
        > about this subject. Do you think it is worth changing
        > Ancient Stoicism on this point. If yes, as there is no
        > goog feeling equivalent to distress, where should we
        > include compassion?
        >
        > Yours sincerely,
        >
        > Elen
        >
        >
        >
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        >
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      • ELEN BUZARE
        Hello Perikles (?), Here is a response to your question (I prefered to post it on the forum so that anyone can profit of it). We do distinguish pity from
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 2 5:27 AM
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          Hello Perikles (?),

          Here is a response to your question (I prefered to
          post it on the forum so that anyone can profit of it).

          We do distinguish pity from compassion.
          In french, pity (pitié, from lat. pietas) means two
          things :
          1-liking feeling provoked by the knowledgde of another
          one distress and which induce the will to see him
          relieved.

          2-commiseration feeling accompanied of defavourable
          appreciation

          Compassion (from lat.compatir) means pity in its first
          meaning and induces "sharing" the other one distress.
          It sounds more positive (at least in french) as
          compassion is never accompanied of defavourable
          appreciation. However "pity" is cited as synonymous of
          "compassion" in my dictionnary

          Mercy may be translated in French by "pitié" or/and
          "miséricorde" (from lat. misericors- Seneca's
          clementia I suppose). In fact, "miséricorde" is
          defined as a pity feeling by which one forgives to the
          guilty one.

          I agree with you that the stoic sage should be able of
          mercy. He should not feel pity in its second meaning.
          But why should not he feel compassion or pity in its
          first meaning? If the Dalai Lama says right, sharing
          the other one distress is not "dangerous" at all for
          our equanimity and even increases our empathy.

          What was the word used by Ancient Stoic to say "pity"?

          No, I have not read Seneca's De Clemencia yet.

          Yours sincerely,

          Elen

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        • ELEN BUZARE
          Perikles, I wish to precise one thing. I do believe, as you do, that the Stoic should be able of compassion and pity in its first meaning. However I tend to
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 2 5:43 AM
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            Perikles,


            I wish to precise one thing.
            I do believe, as you do, that the Stoic should be able
            of compassion and pity in its first meaning. However I
            tend to think that The Dalai Lama emphasises too much
            on compassion. If Nowadays Stoics should decide to
            include "pity" under one of the 3 good feelings, this
            feeling should be balanced by the others.
            It appears I agree with you about that.

            Elen

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          • Thomas
            There is a beautiful text by Seneca from De Clementia on how the sage can be good, in fact more efficiently good, without pity/compassion/misericordia:
            Message 5 of 5 , Apr 8 1:17 PM
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              There is a beautiful text by Seneca from De Clementia on how the sage
              can be good, in fact more efficiently good, without
              pity/compassion/misericordia:

              "Consider, further, that the wise man uses foresight, and keeps in
              readiness a plan of action; but what comes from a troubled source is
              never clear and pure. Sorrow is not adapted to the discernment of
              fact, to the discovery of expedients, to the avoidance of dangers, or
              the weighing of justice; he, consequently, will not suffer pity,
              because there cannot be pity without mental suffering. All else which
              I would have those who feel pity do, he will do gladly and with a
              lofty spirit; he will bring relief to another's tears, but will not
              add his own; to the shipwrecked man he will give a hand, to the exile
              shelter, to the needy alms; he will not do as most of those who wish
              to be thought pitiful do - fling insultingly their alms, and scorn
              those whom they help and shrink from contact with them - but he will
              give as a man to his fellow-man out of the common store; he will
              grant to a mother's tears the life of her son, the captive's chains
              he will order to be broken, he will release the gladiator from his
              training, he will bury the carcass even of a criminal, but he will do
              these things with unruffled mind, and a countenance under control.
              The wise man, therefore, will not pity, but will succour, will
              benefit, and since he is born to be of help to all and to serve the
              common good, he will give to each his share thereof." ON MERCY, II.
              vi. 3-vii. 1

              Thomas
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