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The Compassion of Zarathustra: Nietzsche on Sympathy and Strength

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Abstract

Contemporary theorists critical of the current vogue for compassion might like to turn to Friedrich Nietzsche as an obvious ally in their opposition to the sentiment. Yet this essay argues that Nietzsche's critique of compassion is not entirely critical, and that the endorsement of one's sympathetic feelings is actually a natural outgrowth of Nietzsche's immoralist ethics. Nietzsche understands the tendency to share in the suffering of their inferiors as a distinctive vulnerability of the spiritually strong and healthy. Their compassion, however, is an essential element of the imaginative creativity that Nietzsche holds to be the goal of human existence. Although shared suffering may prove debilitating for some, great individuals must come to affirm their compassion as necessary in achieving accurate knowledge of the human condition.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-78
Number of pages29
JournalThe Review of Politics
Volume68
Issue number01
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Peer-reviewedYes

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