Quotations about   pity

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Pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves.

[ἔλεος μὲν περὶ τὸν ἀνάξιον, φόβος δὲ περὶ τὸν ὅμοιον]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Poetics [Περὶ ποιητικῆς, De Poetica], ch. 13 / 1453a (c. 335 BC) [tr. Butcher (1895)]
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On the essential elements of tragedy. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "Pity is occasioned by undeserved misfortune, and fear by that of one like ourselves." [tr. Bywater (1909)]
  • "Pity is concerned with unmerited ill-fortune, fear with what happens to one's like." [tr. Margoliouth (1911)]
  • "Pity for the undeserved misfortune, fear for the man like ourselves." [tr. Fyfe (1932)]
  • "We pity those who suffer undeservedly, and feel fear for people who are like ourselves." [tr. Janko (1987)]
  • "The one [pity] is to do with the man brought to disaster undeservedly, the other [terror] is to do with [what happens to] men like us." [tr. Whalley (1997)]
  • "One of these sentiments, namely pity, has to do with undeserved misfortune, and the other, namely fear, has to do with someone who is like ourselves." [tr. Sachs (2006)]
Added on 28-May-21 | Last updated 28-May-21
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That the greatest of evils is idleness, that the poor are the victims, not of circumstances, but of their own “idle, irregular, and wicked courses,” that the truest charity is not to enervate them by relief, but so to reform their characters that relief may be unnecessary — such doctrines turned severity from a sin into a duty, and froze the impulse of natural pity with an assurance that, if indulged, it would perpetuate the suffering which it sought to allay.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4, sec. 4 (1926)
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Added on 7-Jan-13 | Last updated 17-Apr-20
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Pity cureth Envy.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #3876 (1732)
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Added on 9-Feb-10 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle.

John Watson (1850-1907) Scottish writer, preacher, theologian [pseud. Ian Maclaren]
The British Weekly (1897)

Frequently paraphrased "Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Frequently misattributed to Plato. More discussion about this quotation here.  See also a later expansion on the theme by Watson here.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 7-Jan-19
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