, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 407–425 | Cite as

What Cèyǐn zhī xīn (Compassion/Familial Affection) Really Is



This essay aims to delineate Mengzi’s view of emotion by analyzing his first ethical sprout, often referred to by the Chinese term cèyǐn zhī xīn 惻隱之心.Previous scholars usually translate this term as “compassion,” “sympathy,” or “commiseration,” in the sense of the painful feeling one feels at the misfortune of others. My goal in this article is to clarify the nature of this painful feeling, and specifically I argue that (1) cèyǐn zhī xīn is primarily construing another being’s misfortune with sympathetic concern, and that (2) the painfulness of cèyǐn zhī xīn comes from this concern-based construal of the object of one’s compassion. My interpretation of cèyǐn zhī xīn as a concern-based construal is an attempt to construct an important alternative to the inclinational view of Mengzian emotions, and it could be also considered as making a crucial step toward a new interpretation of the Mengzian theory of emotional cultivation.


Mengzi Emotion Concern-based construal Sympathy Compassion 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySeoul National UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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