Nietzsche and Compassion

Nietzsche used to worry that too much compassion would make people weak which for him means something like “too sad to live your life.”  The idea was that if you really realized how much people (and animals) were suffering you would be unable to enjoy your life; you’d commit suicide; or maybe you’d just go through the motions but have no hope.  He was on to something real, which is, the fear of that happening.  People are afraid that if they actually realized the humanity of their enemy, or of the people whom they ignore, they would be unhappy.  That’s the cause I think of the anger on the part of anti-progressives.  They are worried that care for others will spoil their lives.  They don’t want to walk around feeling guilty all the time.

But this itself is an attitude born of weakness and despair.  If you have to lie to yourself not to be compassionate, it’s time to take an accounting.

Is the lie worth it?

Are you sure that the other non-compassionate people who you will end up hanging out with are worth hanging out with?  Or will they perhaps turn on you?

Will you actually succeed in lying to yourself and choking your compassion, or will you end up muffing it, and be neither a remorseless superhuman, nor an effective helper of suffering humanity, but just kind of bumble around somewhere in the middle?

Are you sure that you will be so unhappy when you acknowledge the humanity of the suffering?  Maybe you will do better at it than you think!


3 thoughts on “Nietzsche and Compassion

  1. Howard B says:

    How about friendship? I as an Israeli outside the snakepit and cockpit of the Middle East, have almost as many friends of Muslim descent as Jewish descent. (But not as many relatives, alas, yet).
    So my point, there will be a handful of the so called other who reach back when you reach out to them or vice versa. You don’t have to have full blown compassion for everybody, after all we’re not Jesus or Buddha, just realize that everybody is part enemy and part friend. And that’s part of being human.
    Nietzsche had not I suspect fully liberated himself from the shadow of the Christian love thy enemy- it is a false dichotomy

  2. What if they think they are an effective helper of humanity, as they bumble around somewhere in between? Some kind of tough love rhetoric.

    What would it be like to think oneself has reached the stage of an effective helper like that?

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