Feeling sorrow at another person's suffering.

Complementary virtues

Contrasting vices

  • hard-heartedness
  • mercilessness
  • pitilessnes

Virtues possibly in tension

How to acquire or strengthen it


Notes and links

  • Nietzsche distrusted pity, thinking of it as a sort of contagion by which other people’s suffering infects those around them. He also suspected the motives of people who act from pity, suggesting that they demean and objectify those they pity.
  • Cicero, in Tusculan Disputations, groups pity/compassion with envy and grief as among those things wise people do not not permit themselves to be subject to, and says that pity is a sort of flip-side disorder to envy, and that the two stem from a similar root and are likely found in the same people: with envy you are distressed at another person’s good fortune; with pity, at their bad fortune. But in either case you’re out-of-joint. (He’s summarizing what he gives as the stoic point of view, which he sympathizes with but considers too stringent.)
  • Pity is an emotion easy to scorn but central to our humanity

Mentioned elsewhere


Inspirational quotes

  • “Of all the unfortunate sufferers whom this vain world contains, none are more to be pitied than such as have involved themselves in a long train of guilty actions by a single wrong step, suppressed all sense for virtue, acquired a baneful habitude in doing wrong, lost all confidence in God and men, and all courage to return again to the path of virtue, or are, at least, on the point of sinking so low.” ―Baron Knigge (cf. “righteous anger”)