On Amartya Sen’s concept of sympathy Cover Image

On Amartya Sen’s concept of sympathy
On Amartya Sen’s concept of sympathy

Author(s): Mark S. Peacock
Subject(s): Philosophy, Social Sciences, Economy, Special Branches of Philosophy, Sociology, Philosophy of Science, Social Theory, Socio-Economic Research
Published by: Editura Rosetti International
Keywords: rational fools; Amartya Sen; sympathy; egoism; commitment; altruism;

Summary/Abstract: This paper examines Amartya Sen’s concept of sympathy and the oversimplified, ambiguous and sometimes erroneous interpretations of this concept by Sen’s interpreters. In the first section, two types of sympathy can be found in Sen’s ‘Rational fools’ essay ‒ a contemplative and an active type of which the former has conceptual primacy. Following this, active sympathy is examined to ascertain what Sen means by ‘actions based on sympathy’ and why he deems these to be ‘egoistic’. Sen’s understanding of egoism means that sympathy is not straightforwardly assimilable to the orthodox theory of rational choice. The section after that analyses the place of altruism in Sen’s work and ascertains that altruism can be aligned both with sympathy and commitment, depending on the definition one uses. The final section compares sympathy and commitment and establishes that they are to be distinguished, not according to the welfare a person expects to obtain from making choices, but according to the reason which motivates that person to make a choice.

  • Issue Year: XII/2019
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 54-74
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: English