Sympathy and Other Primitive Responses
I have suggested that our immediate and unthinking responses to other human beings are constitutive of our conception of what it is to be a human being. I called these responses primitive. Further, in Chapter 5, I suggested that our primitive sympathetic responses to the suffering of others are constitutive of our conception of human suffering. However, it seems clear, to give just one example, that an equally immediate and unthinking response to another’s suffering is for us to move away, perhaps with embarrassment, from that person. And so now we might expect that this and countless other primitive but unsympathetic responses to the suffering of other human beings contribute in a parallel way to our conception of human suffering and through this of human life more generally. Hence D. Z. Phillips, in response to Winch’s claimthat it is through our expressions of pity that we understand what suffering is, quotes the following verse from Swift.
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