Pity's pathologies portrayed: Rousseau and the limits of democratic compassion

Political Theory 32 (4):519-546 (2004)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau is renowned for defending the pity of the state of nature over and against the vanity, cruelty, and inequalities of civil society. In the standard reading, it is this sentiment of pity, activated by our imagination, that allows for the cultivation of compassion. However, a closer look at the "pathologies of pity" in Rousseau's system challenges this idea that pity is a pleasurable sentiment that arises from a recognition of the identity of our natures and leads ultimately to communion with our fellow-creatures. Instead, pity rests inexorably on a sense of difference, is fueled by an aversion to suffering, and is more likely to yield a world of "reluctant spectators" than one of simple souls eagerly rushing to the aid of others. Because compassion is unlikely to encourage the moral equality and willful agency requisite to democracy, trying to make compassion central to democratic theory may very well prove counterproductive
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/0090591703258118
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,201
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

57 ( #83,726 of 1,940,952 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

4 ( #225,765 of 1,940,952 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.