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Ethics and HumanityThemes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Glover$
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N. Ann Davis, Richard Keshen, and Jeff McMahan

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195325195

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195325195.001.0001

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Compassion: Human and Animal

Compassion: Human and Animal

(p.202) 11 Compassion: Human and Animal
Ethics and Humanity

Martha C. Nussbaum (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Most discussions of the continuity in compassionate concern between humans and other animals focus on continuities and on “good discontinuities,” areas in which humans appear to have superior moral abilities. This chapter focuses on “bad discontinuities,” areas in which human compassion appears diseased and obtuse in ways that correspond to no defect in other species. After offering an analysis of the cognitive structure of compassion, the chapter then examines the relationship between each component of compassion, as it appears in standard human cases, and its role in a variety of animal cases, mapping the differences between humans and a range of animal species. The chapter then attempts to pinpoint the ways in which human compassion goes awry, through the influence of distortions supplied both by defective cultural norms and by a more tenacious underlying anxiety about weakness and need that leads human beings to create classes of subordinate beings to whom they then refuse compassion. Finally, this analysis is used to illuminate a range of cases in which humans refuse compassion to other humans in ways that appear deformed and reprehensible.

Keywords:   compassion, animals, Theodor Fontane, Effi Briest, Leo Tolstoy, The Kreutzer Sonata, Frans de Waal

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