, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 125–144 | Cite as

On the Suffering of Compassion



Compassion is often described in terms of suffering. This paper investigates the nature of this suffering. It is argued that compassion involves suffering of a particular kind. To begin with a case is made for the negative claim that compassion does not involve an ordinary, or afflictive, suffering over something. Secondly, it is argued that the suffering of compassion is a suffering for someone else’s sake: If you feel compassion for another person, P, then you suffer over P:s suffering for P:s sake, and if that is all you do, then you are not affected with an afflictive suffering over something. The final section identifies and addresses a problem concerning self-pity, and a suggestion is made on how to specify the proposed account so as to cover both self-directed and other-directed compassion.


Compassion Pity Suffering Empathy Emotions 



For helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper I wish to thank Mats Johansson, Ingvar Johansson, Roger Melin, Kevin Mulligan, Jonas Nilsson, Bertil Strömberg, Pär Sundström, and two anonymous referees for this journal. Work on the paper was supported by a grant from HLIV, Dalarna University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Health and Social SciencesDalarna UniversityFalunSweden

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