The Virtues of Compassion

In Justin Caouette & Carolyn Price (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Compassion. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield International. pp. 15-32 (2018)
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This paper defends a new, role-differentiated account of the virtues of compassion. My main thesis is that in order to understand compassion’s value and advance debate about its ethical importance we need to recognize that the virtue of compassion involves substantively different dispositions and attitudes in different spheres of life – for example in our personal, professional, and civic lives. In each sphere, compassion is an apt and distinctive form of good-willed responsiveness to the value of living beings and their characteristic struggles to live good lives, but the relevant forms of good-willed responsiveness vary because in different contexts there are different types of living beings involved and different relations between the compassionate person and the being to whom she is compassionate. My specific focus is on compassion in human relations; I argue that, in different role and relationship contexts, the virtues of compassion involve different forms of good-willed responsiveness to human struggles to live well. In developing my account I critically engage with the emotion-focused accounts defended by Martha Nussbaum and Roger Crisp and explain how my more plausible account can shed light on the nature and value of compassion for oneself.

Author's Profile

Bradford Cokelet
University of Kansas


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