Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Expand and Contract
Sympathy is a finite emotion. The vision of ever-expanding rings of sympathy, which the Stoics made much of in the ancient world and Peter Singer makes much of today, has no foundation in human nature. The attempt to force ourselves to feel sympathy for those who exist outside our natural range will not increase our humanity. In fact it will do just the opposite, because if we expend our compassion on people we never meet, we will tend conversely toward indifference in our actual interactions.