Compassion
(920 words)

The term compassion (German Mitleid) is found from the 17th century as a translation of the Greek sympátheia and the Latin compassio, and its meaning is closely related to the concept of misericordia (“mercy”) that was central to Christian ethics. The emotion described by compassion was understood in Antiquity and the Middle Ages as a passive precondition for the active exercise of mercy. According to Thomas Aquinas, misericordia derived from “miserum cor super miseria alterius” (“a heart, in misery over the misery of another"), and meant “compassio super miseria aliena”…

Cite this page
Conrad, Anne, “Compassion”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 15 December 2018 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_024165>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20170206



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