Human Compassion

Rudolf Steiner, Literary Mercury, XII. Jg., No. 50, December 17, 1892
Google translate: German to English

A contribution to the foundation of scientific ethics.

The assertion of rationalist ethicists that only such an act can be regarded as truly moral, whose motive forces are not caused by the egoism of the individual, has been severely contradicted by the statements of more recent psychologists, who ultimately attribute all human activities to egoistic motives. Even the seemingly selfless actions are to have their reason in selfish feelings, according to this latter view. The psychological constitution of the individual should be such in the bearer of so-called selfless deeds that his sense of self is lifted when it brings its sacrifices to the world. In contrast to this current, the author of this work seeks to ascertain the existence and nature of human compassion and to prove that the latter is the cause of unegoistic actions.

Based on the investigations of Herbert Spencer he shows how the others feelings in our own ego, when we perceive a certain emotional expression (cry - trembling, etc.) in the other person, because we know that a corresponding emotional expression also occurs in us with the living in the feelings of others. Furthermore--and going beyond Spencer--the author finds that the perception of another's emotional expression can directly awaken the corresponding feeling in us, without first interposing the idea of the emotional expression that we ourselves have made.

Based on these facts, the author comes to basic ethical terms that do justice to the demands of ethical altruism as well as the findings of psychology. For "though the actions of the well-wishers as well as those of the most reckless egoist are always determined by his own ups and downs," the well-wishers conduct is not calculated quite like that of the egoist to the highest possible own future happiness. In short, we have to do with a very readable, serious claims in every way appropriate writing.