Sympathy or Empathy? or pity or compassion…

dievca’s reaction to Master, this week, prompted an analysis.
Oddly enough, the analysis started with the Rolling Stones:

  • The act or capacity of entering into or sharing the feelings of another is known as sympathy. Empathy, on the other hand, not only is an identification of sorts but also connotes and awareness of one’s separateness from the observed. One of the most difficult tasks put upon man is reflective commitment to another’s problem while maintaining his own identity.
    —Journal of the American Medical Association, 24 May 1958

Hmmm — a tough go. Let’s clarify:

In 1909, the psychologist Edward Titchener translated the German Einfühlung (‘feeling into’) into English as ‘empathy’. Empathy can be defined as a person’s ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person, fictional character, or sentient being. It involves, first, seeing someone else’s situation from their perspective, and, second, sharing their emotions, including, if any, their distress.

Empathy is often confused with pity, sympathy, and compassion, which are each reactions to the plight of others.

Pity is a feeling of discomfort at the distress of one or more sentient beings, and often has paternalistic or condescending overtones. Implicit in the notion of pity is that its object does not deserve its plight, and, moreover, is unable to prevent, reverse, or overturn it. Pity is less engaged than empathy, sympathy, or compassion, amounting to little more than a conscious acknowledgement of the plight of its object.

Sympathy (‘fellow feeling’, ‘community of feeling’) is a feeling of care and concern for someone, often someone close, accompanied by a wish to see him better off or happier. Compared to pity, sympathy implies a greater sense of shared similarities together with a more profound personal engagement. However, sympathy, unlike empathy, does not involve a shared perspective or shared emotions, and while the facial expressions of sympathy do convey caring and concern, they do not convey shared distress. Sympathy and empathy can lead to each other, but not always. It is possible to sympathize with such things as hedgehogs and ladybirds, but not, strictly speaking, to empathize with them. Conversely, psychopaths with absolutely no sympathy for their victims can nonetheless make use of empathy to snare or torture them. Sympathy should also be distinguished from benevolence, which is a much more detached and impartial attitude.

Compassion (‘suffering with’) is more engaged than simple empathy, and is associated with an active desire to alleviate the suffering of its object. With empathy, “I share your emotions”; with compassion, “I not only share your emotions but also elevate them into a universal and transcending experience”. Compassion, which can be built upon empathy, is one of the main motivators of altruism.

An act of Human Involvement on any level (micro or macro):

According to Master, dievca has a lot of empathy for her fellow-man.
But in a certain case, she could only offer her pity.