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In this article I examine an example of sympathy - the actions of one woman who rescued Jews during their persecution in Nazi Europe. I argue that this woman's account of her actions here suggests that sympathy is a primitive response to the suffering of another. By "primitive" here I mean: first, that these responses are immediate and unthinking; and second, that these responses are explanatorily basic, that they cannot be explained in terms of some more fundamental feature of human nature - such as some particular desire or sentiment that we possess. My conclusion is then that our sympathetic responses are themselves partially constitutive of our conception of what is to be a human being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-87
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Compassion
  • Hume
  • Primitive responses
  • Schopenhauer
  • Sympathy


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