Philosophy 74 (3):411-429 (1999)

The altruistic emotions of pity and compassion are discussed in the context of Aristotle's treatment of the former in the Rhetoric, and Nussbaum's reconstruction of that treatment in a recent account of the latter. Aristotle's account of pity does not represent it as a virtue, the context of the Rhetoric rather rendering his account one of a peculiarly self-centred emotion. Nussbaum's reconstruction builds on the cognitive ingredients of Aristotle's account, and attempts to place the emotion of compassion more squarely in the moral sphere. It is argued that Nussbaum's reconstruction nevertheless falls short of capturing the altruism which is central to the virtue of compassion, and which therefore explains its role as a ‘basic social emotion’
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819199000479
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