Chap. 2: The Pleasure of Mutual Sympathy

Mutual Sympathy is not based on Self-Love


1.1.14 Whatever may be the cause of sympathy, we are most pleased in observing in other men a fellow-feeling with our own emotions.

  • We are shocked by the opposite.
  • Those who say that all our sentiments arise from self-love, think that this proves that pleasure and pain arise from self love.
  • They say man is always:
    • conscious of his own weakness, and
    • in need of the assistance of others.
      • Man therefore rejoices whenever others adopt his own passions.
        • He is then assured of that assistance.
      • Man grieves whenever others reject his passions.
        • He is then assured of their opposition.
  • Pain and pleasure are always felt instantly.
    • But neither of them are derived from self-interest.
  • A man is mortified when, after trying to make his friends laugh, he sees that his jests are laughed at only by himself.
    • On the contrary, his friends’ amusement is very agreeable to him.
      • He regards this correspondence of their sentiments with his own as the greatest applause.


1.1.15 His pleasure does not seem to all arise from the added vivacity received by his amusement from a sympathy with their amusement.

  • His pain does not seem to all arise from his disappointment when he misses this pleasure.
    • Though both the added vivacity and the disappointment contribute to his pleasure and pain.
  • After we have read a book so often, we can no longer enjoy reading it by ourselves.
    • However, we can still enjoy reading it to a companion.
      • To him, it has novelty.
      • We enter into his surprise and admiration for it, which we no longer have.
      • We consider all the book’s ideas as how they appear to him, than in what appeared to ourselves.
      • By sympathy, we are amused  with his amusement, which thus enlivens our own.
    • On the contrary, we are vexed if he was not entertained by the book.
      • We do not enjoy reading it to him.
  • It is the same case here.
    • The mirth of our friends enlivens our own mirth.
    • Their silence disappoints us.
    • This may contribute to:
      • our pleasure from their mirth and
      • our pain from their lack of mirth.
    • But it is not the sole cause of either.
      • This correspondence of the sentiments of others with our own appears to be a cause of pleasure.
      • The lack of it causes pain, which cannot be accounted for in this way.
  • My friends’ sympathy with my joy might give me pleasure by enlivening that joy.
    • But their sympathy with my grief gives me no pleasure, if it only served to enliven that grief.
  • Sympathy enlivens joy and alleviates grief.
    • It enlivens joy by presenting another source of satisfaction.
    • It alleviates grief by giving the heart the only agreeable sensation which it can receive.


1.1.16 We are more anxious to communicate to our friends our disagreeable passions than our agreeable ones.

  • We derive more satisfaction from their sympathy with our disagreeable passions than our agreeable ones.
    • We are more shocked by the lack of sympathy.


1.1.17 The unfortunate are relieved when they find someone they can communicate the cause of their sorrow to.

  • We disburden some of our distress upon his sympathy.
    • He is said to properly share our distress.
    • He feels a same kind of sorrow which we feel.
    • The sorrow he feels seems to alleviate the weight of what we feel.
    • Yet by relating their misfortunes they somewhat renew their grief.
    • We awaken the remembrance of the causes of our affliction.
      • Our tears flow faster than before.
      • We are apt to abandon ourselves to sorrow.
  • However, we take pleasure in all of this.
    • We are sensibly relieved by it.
      • Because the sweetness of his sympathy more than compensates that sorrow’s bitterness.
        • This sorrow had to be enlivened and renewed to excite this sympathy.
      • On the contrary, the cruelest insult appears to make light of their calamities.
  • It is impolite if a man is not affected with the joy of his companions.
    • But it is a real and gross inhumanity for him not to be serious when they tell him of their afflictions.


1.1.18 Love is an agreeable passion.

  • Resentment is a disagreeable passion.
  • We are not so anxious that our friends should adopt our friendships, as that they should enter into our resentments.
    • We can forgive them though they are little affected with the favours we may have received.
      • But we lose all patience if they are indifferent about the injuries done to us.
    • They can easily avoid being friends to our friends.
      • But they can hardly avoid being enemies to our enemies.
    • We seldom resent if they are not friends with our friends.
      • But we quarrel with them if they become friends with our enemies.
  • The agreeable passions of love and joy can satisfy the heart alone.
    • The painful emotions of grief and resentment require sympathy more strongly .


1.1.19 People are pleased with our sympathy and hurt by lack of it.

  • We are pleased when we are able to sympathize with him.
    • We are hurt when we are unable to do so.
    • We congratulate the successful.
    • We condole with the afflicted.
  • Our pleasure in our conversation with someone we sympathize with, more than compensates our view of his sorrow.
    • On the contrary, it is always disagreeable to feel that we cannot sympathize with him.
    • It hurts us to find that we cannot share his uneasiness.
  • If we hear a person’s misfortunes which do not affect us, we are shocked at his grief.
    • We call him weak because we cannot enter into it.
  • On the other hand, we disapprove of someone being too happy or too much elevated with any little piece of good fortune.
    • We are even disobliged with his joy.
      • We call it levity and folly, because we cannot go along with it.
    • We even disapprove if our friend laughs louder or longer at a joke than we think the joke deserves.
      • Because we feel that we ourselves could not laugh at it as much.

Words: 995

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