I just read the entirety of Clifford Orwin’s Marvelous “How an Emotion Became a Virtue –
it took some help from Rousseau and Montesquieu“, and I can recommend it highly to anyone who is interested in the place that compassion holds in the current human consciousness as well as its historical understanding.
Clifford takes a more or less etymological tact in his argument; he points out cracks in the foundation of our current, “modern” ethics by examining the historical situation upon which our current morality is affixed. On the one it renders him unable to offer an alternative (however with such a monumental problem it can hardly be held against him), however for someone who is interested in the ‘compassion politics’ whose figurehead is the United Nations it is a wake-up call to examine the justifications that we assume true in order to arrive at this current state of affairs. Orwin concludes his essay:
Although Nietzsche often described himself (and has been described by others) as an immoralist, his ultimate objection to compassion was an ethical one. The core of humanity was its ambition to greatness, and all greatness depended on suffering. The modern project of compassion, then, taken as the elimination of suffering, was ipso facto a campaign against humanity as such in favor of a descent into the subhuman.