The Ethic of Compassion and the Ethic of Justice
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The sole ruler in the normative kingdom is the individual, the subject as moral agent. The best realm for examining the standing of the individual is the practical-ethical field of action. It is through action that the individual can concretize his appearance as one who constitutes the suitable moral norm relying on his epistemic autonomy. Action, however, is also the field where the self can retreat when faced with the appearance of the other. In this chapter, I show that the difference between these two appearances of the self comes forth in the difference between two types of ethic: the ethic of justice and the ethic of compassion. Whereas the ethic of justice realizes the sovereign control of the moral subject, who constitutes the field relying on her normative considerations, the ethic of compassion epitomizes the subject’s readiness to retreat and renounce his active and sovereign standing in favor of what appears before his eyes—the suffering other.