'No longer to think of oneself'.  Let us reflect seriously upon this question: why do we leap after someone who has fallen into the water in front of us, even though we feel no kind of affection for him? Out of pity: at that moment we are thinking only of the other person  thus says thoughtlessness. Why do we feel pain and discomfort in common with someone spitting blood, though we may even be ill-disposed towards him? Out of pity: at that moment we are not thinking of ourself  thus says the same thoughtlessness. The truth is: in the feeling of pity  I mean in that which is usually and misleadingly called pity  we are, to be sure, not consciously thinking of ourself but are doing so very strongly unconsciously; as when, if our foot slips  an act of which we are not immediately conscious  we perform the most purposive counter-motions and in doing so plainly employ our whole reasoning faculty. An accident which happens to another offends us: it would make us aware of our impotence, and perhaps of our cowardice, if we did not go to assist him. Or it brings with it in itself a diminution of our honour in the eyes of others or in our own eyes. Or an accident and suffering incurred by another constitutes a signpost to some danger to us; and it can have a painful effect upon us simply as a token of human vulnerability and fragility in general. We repel this kind of pain and offence and requite it through an act of pity; it may contain a subtle self-defence or even a piece of revenge. That at bottom we are thinking very strongly of ourselves can be divined from the decision we arrive at in every case in which we can avoid the sight of the person suffering, perishing or complaining: we decide not to do so if we can present ourselves as the more powerful and as a helper, if we are certain of applause, if we want to feel how fortunate we are in contrast, or hope that the sight will relieve our boredom. It is misleading to call the Leid (suffering) we may experience at such a sight, and which can be of very varying kinds, Mit-Leid (pity), for it is under all circumstances a suffering which he who is suffering in our presence is free of: it is our own, as the suffering he feels is his own. But it is only this suffering of our own which we get rid of when we perform deeds of pity. But we never do anything of this kind out of one motive; as surely as we want to free ourselves of suffering by this act, just as surely do we give way to an impulse to pleasure with the same act  pleasure arises at the sight of a contrast to the condition we ourselves are in; at the notion that we can help if only we want to; at the thought of the praise and recognition we shall receive if we do help; at the activity of helping itself, insofar as the act is successful and as something achieved step by step in itself gives delight to the performer; especially, however, at the feeling that our action sets a limit to an injustice which arouses our indignation (the discharge of one's indignation is itself refreshing). All of this, and other, much more subtle things in addition, constitute 'pity': how coarsely does language assault with its one word so polyphonous a being!  That pity, on the other hand, is the same kind of thing as the suffering at the sight of which it arises, or that it possesses an especially subtle, penetrating understanding of suffering, are propositions contradicted by experience, and he who glorifies pity precisely on account of these two qualities lacks adequate experience in this very realm of the moral. This is what I have to conclude when I see all the incredible things Schopenhauer had to say of pity: he who wanted in this way to force us to believe in his great innovation that pity  which he had observed so imperfectly and described so badly  is the source of each and every moral action, past and future  and precisely on account of the faculties he had invented for it.  What in the end distinguishes men without pity from those with it? Above all  to offer only a rough outline here too  they lack the susceptible imagination for fear, the subtle capacity to scent danger; nor is their vanity so quickly offended if something happens that they could have prevented (the cautiousness of their pride tells them not to involve themselves needlessly in the things of others, indeed they love to think that each should help himself and play his own cards). They are, in addition, mostly more accustomed to enduring pain than are men of pity; and since they themselves have suffered, it does not seem to them so unfair that others should suffer. Finally, they find that being soft-hearted is painful to them, just as maintaining a stoic indifference is painful to men of pity; they load that condition with deprecations and believe it to threaten their manliness and the coldness of their valour  they conceal their tears from others and wipe them away, angry with themselves. They are a different kind of egoists from the men of pity;  but to call them in an exceptional sense evil, and men of pity good, is nothing but a moral fashion which is having its day: just as the opposite fashion had its day, and a long day too!

Friedrich Nietzsche - Daybreak
Book II - Aphorism # 133

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