Selection from – Ethics – Part III. On the Nature and Origin of the Emotions (Page 10)

Spinoza's Words: (on pity, benevolence and doing good)

Pity we may define as pain arising from another's hurt. What term we can use for pleasure arising from another's gain, I know not.

We seek to free from misery, as far as we can, a thing which we pity. This will or appetite for doing good, which arises from pity of the thing whereon we would confer a benefit, is called benevolence, and is nothing else but desire arising from compassion.

Proposition. XXVIII. We endeavour to bring about whatsoever we conceive to conduce to pleasure; but we endeavour to remove or destroy whatsoever we conceive to be truly repugnant thereto, or to conduce to pain.


The empathy we feel when observing another's pain is felt in us as our own pain. If we can act to relieve that pain we shall rejoice. We act, as far as we can, to increase pleasure and reduce pain. This seems so obvious one wonders why Spinoza did not make it an axiom instead a proposition, unless he wanted to prove it by the use of previous propositions and corollaries.