Mind Self and Society
Section 38 The Nature of Sympathy
The term "sympathy" is an ambiguous one, and a difficult one to interpret. I have referred to an immediate attitude of
(299) care, the assistance of one individual by another, such as we find especially in the relations among lower forms. Sympathy comes, in the human form, in the arousing in one's self of the attitude of the individual whom one is assisting, the taking the attitude of the other when one is assisting the other. A physician may simply carry through an operation in an objective fashion without any sympathetic attitude toward the patient. But in an attitude which is sympathetic we imply that our attitude calls out in ourselves the attitude of the person we are assisting. We feel with him and we are able so to feel ourselves into the other because we have, by our own attitude, aroused in ourselves the attitude of the person whom we are assisting. It is that which I regard as a proper interpretation of what we ordinarily call "imitation," and "sympathy," in the vague, undefined sense which we find in our psychologies, when they deal with it at all.
Take, for example, the attitude of parents to the child. The child's tone is one of complaint, suffering, and the parent's tone is one that is soothing. The parent is calling out in himself an attitude of the child in accepting that consolation. This illustration indicates as well the limitation of sympathy. There are persons with whom one finds it difficult to sympathize. In order to be in sympathy with someone, there must be a response which answers to the attitude of the other. If there is not a response which so answers, then one cannot arouse sympathy in himself. Not only that, but there must be cooperation, a reply on the part of the person sympathized with, if the individual who sympathizes is to call out in himself this attitude. One does not put himself immediately in the attitude of the person suffering apart from one's own sympathetic attitude toward him. The situation is that of a person assisting the other, and because of that calling out in himself the response that his assistance calls out in the other. If there is no response on the part of the other, there cannot be any sympathy. Of course, one can say that he can recognize what such a person must be suffering if he could only express it. He thereby puts himself in the place of another who
(300) is not there but whom he has met in experience, and interprets this individual in view of the former experience. But active sympathy means that the individual does arouse in another the response called out by his assistance and arouses in himself the same response. If there is no response, one cannot sympathize with him. That presents the limitation of sympathy as such; it has to occur in a cooperative process. Nevertheless, it is in the foregoing sense that one person identifies himself with another. I am not referring to an identification in the Hegelian sense of an Ego, but of an individual who perfectly naturally arouses a certain response in himself because his gesture operates on himself as it does on the other.
To take a distinctively human, that is, self-conscious, social attitude toward another individual, or to become aware of him as such, is to identify yourself sympathetically with him, by taking his attitude toward, and his rôle in, the given social situation, and by thus responding to that situation implicitly as he does or is about to do explicitly; in essentially the same way you take his attitude toward yourself in gestural conversation with him, and are thus made self-conscious. Human social activities depend very largely upon social cooperation among the human individuals who carry them on, and such cooperation results from the taking. by these individuals of social attitudes toward one another. Human society endows the human individual with a mind; and the very social nature of that mind requires him to put himself to some degree in the experiential places of, or to take the attitudes of, the other individuals belonging to that society and involved with him in the whole social process of experience and behavior which that society represents or carries on.
I wish now to utilize this mechanism in dealing with religion and the economic process. In the economic field the individual is taking the attitude of the other in so far as he is offering something to the other and calling out in reply a response of giving in the individual who has a surplus. There must be a situation in which the individual brings forward his own object as some-
(301) -thing that is valuable. Now, from his point of view it is not valuable, but he is putting himself in the attitude of the other individual who will give something in return because he can find some use for it. He is calling out in himself the attitude of the other in offering something in return for what he offers; and although the object has for the individual no direct value, it becomes valuable from the point of view of the other individual into whose place the first individual is able to put himself.
What makes this process so universal is the fact that it is a dealing with surpluses, dealing with that which is, so to speak, from the point of view of the individual without value. Of course, it gets a value in the market and then one assesses it from the point of view of what one can get for it, but what makes it a universal thing is that it does not pass into the individual's own direct use. Even if he takes something that he can use and trades that, he has to regard it as something he is going to get rid of in order to get something still more valuable; it has to be something he is not going to use. The immediate value of our owning a thing directly is the use to which we put it, its consumption; but in the economic process we are dealing with something that is immediately without value. So we set up a universal sort of a process. The universality is dependent upon this fact that each person is bringing to the market the things he is not going to use. He states them in terms of the abstraction of money by means of which he can get anything else. It is this negative value that gives the universality, for then it can be turned over to anybody who can give something in return which can be used.
In the primitive community where everybody is related to everybody else, a surplus as such has no meaning. The things arc distributed in accordance with definite custom; everybody shares the surplus. Wealth does not exist under such conditions at all. There are certain returns given to the artisan, but they are not returns put into the form that can be expended for any goods which he wants to get in return for something he does not want. The setting-up, then, of the media of exchange is some-
(302) thing that is highly abstract. It depends upon the ability of the individual to put himself in the place of the other to see that the other needs what he does not himself need, and to see that what he himself does not need is something that another does need. The whole process depends on an identification of one's self with the other, and this cannot take place among living forms in which there is not a capacity for putting one's self in the place of the other through communicating in a system of gestures which constitute language. Here are then two phases in which universal societies, although highly abstract societies, do actually exist, and what I have been presenting is the import from the psychological standpoint of these universal societies and their tendencies to complete themselves. One cannot complete the process of bringing goods into a market except by developing means of communication. The language in which that is expressed is the language of money. The economic process goes right on tending to bring people closer together by setting up more and more economic techniques and the language mechanism necessary to these procedures.
The same is true in a somewhat different sense from the point of view of the universal religions. They tend to define themselves in terms of communities, because they identify themselves with the cult in the community, but break out beyond this in the missionary movement, in the form of propagandists. The religion may be of a relatively primitive sort, as in Mohammedanism, or in the more complex forms of Buddhism and Christianity; but it inevitably undertakes to complete the relations involved in the attitude of saving other people's souls, of helping, assisting, other people. It develops the missionary who is a physician, those who are artisans, those who set up processes in the community which will lead to the attachment to the very things involved in the religious attitude. We see it first of all in the monasteries of Europe, where the monks undertook to set themselves up as the artisans. They illustrate the tendency of religion to complete itself, to complete the community which previously existed in an abstract form. Such is the picture that
(303) I wanted to present as one of the valuable interpretative contributions of such a view of the self as here developed.