Care and the Problem of Pity



In recent years philosophers and bioethicists have given considerable attention to the concept of care. Thus we have seen important work on questions such as: whether there is a uniquely female approach to ethics, whether ethics should be partial or impartial, and whether care must be supplemented by justice. Despite this valuable and extensive work, however, some important distinctions have gone largely undiscussed. This paper tries to fill a gap left in our understanding of the concept of care itself by distinguishing between compassion and two kinds of pity. While all three are kinds of caring, we should not give them similar moral evaluations. Consequently, the distinction between compassion and different kinds of pity gives us an important insight into the question of whether we can consider care a virtue for health care professionals.