What Cèyǐn zhī xīn (Compassion/Familial Affection) Really Is

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This essay aims to delineate Mengzi's view of emotion by analyzing his first ethical sprout, often referred to by the Chinese term cèyǐn zhī xīn (chinese source). Previous scholars usually translate this term as "compassion," "sympathy," or "commiseration," in the sense of the painful feeling one feels at the misfortune of others. My goal in this article is to clarify the nature of this painful feeling, and specifically I argue that (1) cèyǐn zhī xīn is primarily construing another being's misfortune with sympathetic concern, and that (2) the painfulness of cèyǐn zhī xīn comes from this concern-based construal of the object of one's compassion. My interpretation of cèyǐn zhī xīn as a concern-based construal is an attempt to construct an important alternative to the inclinational view of Mengzian emotions, and it could be also considered as making a crucial step toward a new interpretation of the Mengzian theory of emotional cultivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-425
Number of pages19
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements The preparation of this essay was enabled by the support of the postdoctoral fellowship from the Philosophy department at National University of Singapore (2008–2009). The contents of this essay were presented at a departmental seminar there, and I am grateful for many helpful comments from the Philosophy faculty, especially TAN Sor-hoon, NUYAN Anh Tuan, and John Greenwood (a visiting professor at that time). I also deeply appreciate the insightful comments and helpful suggestions made by two anonymous reviewers of this essay.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy


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