A strange state of mournful contentment

The role of compassion in moral betterment


  • Laura Candiotto University of Pardubice




moral betterment, compassion, Etty Hillesum, emotional friction, suffering, oppression


In this paper, I will consider a unique case where changing one’s character is part of a process of moral betterment when facing oppression. By engaging with the Dutch-Jewish intellectual and Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum, I will highlight the situated dimension of moral betterment as a practice that is driven by the pressure of concurrent events. I will claim that moral betterment does not just come out of an internal will to change for the better. Instead, I will argue that “bearing real suffering” (Hillesum 1996: 220) is what makes compassion a potential source of moral betterment. This is possible because in compassion, one experiences emotional friction between weakness and strength in facing the suffering caused by oppression.


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