23 October 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Compassion + NEWS (XIX JORNADAS Internacionales de Filosofía)

Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing the topic: Compassion.

Some regard compassion as that emotion which leads to an act to help
others when they are in pain. In other words, compassion leads us to try
and stop the pain of others, especially when in some way or other we are
part of the cause of that physical pain. Or at the very least, we can do
something about it. Hence, the effect of compassion should really be a
causal effect on our part on the physical pain or suffering of others.

Compassion is rather different from empathy since a feeling of empathy
leads to a mind state in us and not necessarily an act from us to stop a
pain. It is also different from feeling sorry for others since when we
feel sorry for some, there need not be physical pain present although
there might be distress or psychological pain present. For example, when
someone's pet dies or, worse, when someone loses their job after a year.

Of course, pain on its own is not a sufficient condition to lead to
compassion. For example, some medical treatments cause pain when
administered. Compassion is usually the feeling of pain by someone else
that is associated with the feeling in us that this is caused by some
injustice or some unfair situation. Thus, when a doctor is in the
process of administering a painful treatment (knowing there is no
alternative) the idea of compassion does not arise. And indeed the
feeling of compassion has to reside in the doctor and not us observers.
This explains why we put the burden on health carers (and politicians)
in cases when the patient wants to terminate their life with dignity
under severe conditions of suffering. And of course we do this because
we reasonably believe that the doctor can comply with the wishes of the

The problem when we expect others to have a sense of compassion is that
we are experts on pain, especially our own pain, but we know very little
on how others feel pain; what makes someone else feel pain? Thus, it is
very difficult to want others to be distress when someone feels pain. We
can of course cite moral principles but that assumes that the person
needlessly causing the pain on someone else has the same values as us.
This, of course, makes life difficult for us and, for example, health
carers when we expect them to show compassion is cases of extreme
suffering. We know about our pain, but they know about their pain but
also medical science and the relevant law.

Thus the distinction must be made between the instances when we ought to
feel compassionate about someone's pain and others feeling compassionate
for someone. The common factor between the two is: who is causing the
pain or who can stop the pain?

When we want others to stop what they are doing that is causing pain to
someone, or indeed, do something to stop the pain when they can do
something, we wouldn't automatically call what we are feeling
compassion. We may now distil the two questions at the end of the
previous paragraph to a single question: what can I do to stop the pain?
If we can do something about it then what we are feeling is compassion.

In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:
Hello Lawrence,
Below is the link to the short essay I wrote on the topic for Sunday's
See you on Sunday.

---From Miguel
XIX JORNADAS Internacionales de Filosofía
Pensar lo SAGRADO
27 y 28 de octubre de 2014
de 19:00 a 21:00 horas
Facultad de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales. Universidad Pontificia Comillas.
Si se desea certificado de asistencia se deberá realizar la
correspondiente inscripción
Más información
Facultad de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales
Tel. 91 7343950 María Jesús Vega (ext. 2620)

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Compassion + NEWS
(XIX JORNADAS Internacionales de Filosofía)

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