According to David Hume, the decisions of actions and actions themselves are driven by one’s sense of pleasure that would follow as a result. Analogically, the opposite is true about the sense of displeasure. It can be said that for Hume good is associated with pleasure and bad – with the sense of displeasure. This does not mean that one has to be selfish egoist, because everyone is part of the community. Furthermore, everyone needs community in order to live satisfied.
Beside that community is a necessary for man, he naturally cares about it and shows concern for the welfare of the others. We are talking not just about lack of indifference, and about that person has a true idea of the happiness and misery of others. How one forms a living idea about the condition of others? Thanks to the sympathy it is possible for us to experience feelings of pleasure and displeasure respectively happiness and unhappiness, similar to those of other people.
The close communication and sympathy could completely change our feelings and sensations. The moral evaluation, which we give to things can also change accordingly. Sympathy has a different intensity and power. The closer to us in time and space is an event, the stronger is our reaction for the man who is in this situation. We could not only put ourselves in the shoes of the other, we also could give moral judgment about his decisions and actions. Looked at wider aspect, sympathy is a regulator of human relationships within a community.
In ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (1759) Adam Smith says that our first perception of right and wrong is driven by emotion rather than reason, similar to the concept of Hume. According to Adam Smith in human nature there are impulses that make person be interested in the well-being of others.
But he is not just an observer, because seeing their happiness, he enjoys it, or vice versa – in the case of misfortune. The ability to sympathize with similar feelings in others is a general principle inherent in all people and the basis of our morality.
Man as a moral creature is not sufficiently independent to be alone and needs the others as they need him. According to Smith, we need the mirror of our community. We begin to judge our own feelings and behavior and think how they may be expressed in front of others when we reflect how they would look when viewed by another person.
Human empathy is different than sympathy because it involves our awareness and understanding. Empathy is defined as ‘imaginary reconstruction of the experience of suffering’. In this context, it is something that we should cultivate if we want to be better moral individuals. The media could build symbolic bridge between us and the world.
Watching, listening or reading the news creates a ‘feeling of being somewhere else, the feeling of being in any way relevant to other person, the feeling of being there’. The media expand our moral world. We can feel empathy for strangers and people very different from us. There is ‘wonder of empathy’ or the way we are open, curious and even fascinated by ‘the other’, who is different somehow, in order to connect.
But empathy and compassion are not automatic responses to what we see in the media. In many cases, there is no necessary link between the use of empathy on the one hand, and proper action on the other.
The first attribute of compassion is motivation. Otherwise, why opening our attention to someone unless we are motivated to do something? The focus, the purpose and point are provided by our motivation and we also need wisdom and insight. The compassion is not something we ‘should’, because that would make us ‘nice person’ and this way the other ‘will like us more’. First we need to see and understand and after that we are moved to react.
Often our motivation can be developed from other people’s example, we can see qualities that we want to develop in ourselves. All media communication channels (newspapers, magazines, radio, tv, internet) are functional places where we all can see people who demonstrate something we admire and this can become a source of inspiration for many of us – we may wish to be like them, to learn from them, have sense of belonging, to change and be inspirational to others.
Hume D., A Treatise of Human Nature, 1740. Available from: http://www.davidhume.org/texts/thn.html, 10.11.2012
Hume D., An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 1777. Available from: http://www.davidhume.org/texts/epm.html, 13.11.2012
Choden, GP, Mindful Compassion, New Harbinger Publications, 2014. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central