Analects of the Core: Burke on delight in the misfortune of others

I am convinced we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pains of others; for let the affection be what it will in appearance, if it does not make us shun such objects, if on the contrary it induces us to approach them, if it makes us dwell upon them, in this case I conceive we must have a delight or pleasure of some species or other in contemplating objects of this kind… Our delight, in cases of this kind, is very greatly heightened, if the sufferer be some excellent person who sinks under an unworthy fortune…For terror is a passion which always produce delight when it does not press too closely; and pity is a passion accompanied with pleasure, because it arises from love and social affection…If this passion was simply painful, we would shun with the greatest care all persons and places that could excite such a passion…The delight we have in such things, hinders us from shunning scenes of misery; and the pain we feel prompts us to relieve ourselves in relieving those who suffer; and all this antecedent to any reasoning, by an instinct that works us to its own purposes without our concurrence.

- Edmund Burke, On the Sublime and Beautiful, (“The Effects of Sympathy in the Distresses of Others“)

Post a Comment

Your email address is never shared. Required fields are marked *