Being virtuous without being empathetic

So far, I have argued (1) that the ascetic ideal of empathy has sprung forth from a false metaphysical picture of human beings as weak, suffering creatures and (2) that it  leads to the conclusion that when we speak, we not do often lodge claims that can be examined with a view to changing our basic conceptions about the world. In all this, I am inquiring into how we overcome empathy as a ‘supreme virtue.’

Here, the skeptic might reply: ‘How could one get on without empathy and still be a virtuous human being?’

There are at least three ways. The first would be to say what is appropriate on the occasion without at the same time feeling sorry for the other. In this spirit, Epictetus in Enchiridion 16 writes of the proper response to the grieving person, the one who is violently weeping. He concludes by stating that one can go along ‘groaning with him, so far as words go,’ but one would do well not to groan also with him ‘in the centre of one’s being.’

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