Sympathy [Encyclopedia Entry]
Contribution to Book
The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
Original Item ID
The term “sympathy” has two meanings in philosophical literature. According to one conception, “sympathy” commonly means having care and concern for another whose well-being is under threat or is encountering some obstacle (Darwall 1998: 261). When I feel sympathy, I feel for the other (Darwall 1998: 261). The Confucian philosopher Mengzi (also known as Mencius), for example, writes that a person seeing a small child on the verge of falling into a well would be moved by alarm and compassion (Darwall 1998: 261; Van Norden 2008: 46; see Confucian Ethics; Mencius). Here “compassion” seems to be used interchangeably with “sympathy.” When I feel sympathy or compassion, I show care and concern for another in her plight.