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  1. Nancy E. Snow

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee315

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Snow, N. E. 2013. Sympathy. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


The term “sympathy” has two meanings in philosophical literature. According to one conception, “sympathy” commonly means having care and concern for another whose well-being is under threat or is encountering some obstacle (Darwall 1998: 261). When I feel sympathy, I feel for the other (Darwall 1998: 261). The Confucian philosopher Mengzi (also known as Mencius), for example, writes that a person seeing a small child on the verge of falling into a well would be moved by alarm and compassion (Darwall 1998: 261; Van Norden 2008: 46; see Confucian Ethics; Mencius). Here “compassion” seems to be used interchangeably with “sympathy.” When I feel sympathy or compassion, I show care and concern for another in her plight.


  • ethics;
  • normative ethics