more from Baruch de Spinoza

Single Idea 4857

[catalogued under 23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 3. Virtues / f. Compassion]

Full Idea

Pity is a pain, and is therefore in itself bad; only at the dictation of reason are we able to perform any action, which we know for certain to be good; thus, in a man who lives under the guidance of reason, pity in itself is useless and bad.

Gist of Idea

Pity is a bad and useless thing, as it is a pain, and rational people perform good deeds without it


Baruch de Spinoza (The Ethics [1675], IV Pr 50)

Book Reference

Spinoza,Benedict de: 'Ethics, Improvement of Understanding, Letters', ed/tr. Elwes,R [Dover 1955], p.221

A Reaction

This is the essence of both Kant's and Bentham's views. It is, however, unclear why a wholly rational and unfeeling person should be motivated to prevent other people's pain. It also don't think it follows that because it is painful it is bad.