The individual feeling of compassion for other living beings forms the foundation of the ethics of compassion. Schopenhauer calls this the care for the “Wohl und Wehe” (roughly: “well-being and woe”) of others. Corresponding with Max Scheler’s differentiation between different types of compassion, only that type of compassion is morally relevant within the ethics of compassion, which comprises two aspects: For one thing, the observer empathizes with the one suffering by imagining the latter’s feelings and thoughts; at the same time, she does, however, maintain the observer’s distance and clearly distinguishes between herself and the one affected. For another thing, this process of empathizing is mostly connected to the own feelings of suffering, which is generated by projecting the situation to oneself.
Initially, it is the first aspect which is decisive for the moral action according to the ethics of compassion. According to Schopenhauer, empathizing with the suffering of others and the capability for changing perspectives implicit therein form the “fundament of moral”, which is the basic awareness of moral upon which ethics of compassion is based.
Demmerling, Christoph (2007): Philosophie der Gefühle. Stuttgart: Metzler.
Schopenhauer, Arthur: Über die Freiheit des menschlichen Willens. Über die Grundlage der Moral. Kleinere Schriften II. Hg. von Arthur Hübscher. Zürich: Diogenes 1977 [Zürcher Ausgabe. Werke in zehn Bänden 6].