ICS Calendar Title: The Aesthetics of Compassion

ICS Course Code: ICS 220104 F16

Instructor: Dr. Rebekah Smick, rsmick@icscanada.edu, 416-979-2331 ext. 288

Term and Year: Tuesdays, 1:45 pm-4:45 pm, Fall 2016

Last Updated: July 27, 2016. Note: This is not the final version


1. Course Description

2. Reading Schedule

3. Course Requirements

4. Description and Weighting of Elements to be Evaluated

5. Required Readings

6. Some Recommended Readings

1. Course Description

In light of recent renewed interest in the meanings and mechanisms of empathy in such areas as theology, ethics, visual studies, and the philosophy of mind, this course examines the place and role of compassion in the development of the Western aesthetics tradition. Considering a range of art theoretical texts, literature, and images for which the theme of compassion has been crucial, the course aims to clarify the ways in which the concept of compassion has been thought able to account for certain of the emotional and cognitive links that exist between an artwork and its audience.

2. Reading Schedule





Plato, The Republic, The Ion, The Symposium

  • Book X,602c-608b;
  • Complete Ion;
  • Diotima’s Speech


Aristotle’s Poetics and Rhetoric

  • Poetics, Chap. 6, 1449b27-28; Chap. 9, 1451a37-1452a11; Chap. 11, 1452a22-1452b13; Chap. 13, 1452b28-1453a34; and Chap. 14, 1453b1-27
  • Rhetoric, Book 2, Chapter 8

Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria

  • Book VI.II.23-36


Seneca, On Mercy and Michael Psellos, “Sermon on the Crucifixion”

  • Seneca,I. xix. 2 - xxi. 3; II. iv. 3 - II. vi. 3
  • Psellos, entire sermon


The Middle Commentary of Averroes

  • Commentary extracts and “A Question on the Nature of Poetry


The Romance of the Rose

  • pp. 236-252, 293-304, 306-308, 312-318, 320-322

Feb. 20-24

Reading Week - no class


Dante, The Divine Comedy

  • Inferno, Cantos I, II, V, VI, VIII, XIII and XX
  • Purgatorio, Cantos XXVII and XXX
  • Paradiso, Cantos XIII and XXXIII


William Shakespeare, The Tempest

  • complete play


Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals

  • Sects. 29-35


Schopenhauer, On the Basis of Morality

  • Part III, Chaps. V-VIII


Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

  • complete novel


Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Birth of Tragedy

  • Zarathustra, II, II, IV
  • Tragedy, pp. 53-64


  • Wrap up

3. Course Requirements

Class participation.

Seminar presentation.

Research paper on an approved topic.

4. Description and Weighting of Elements to be Evaluated

Possible Paper Topics

Students might consider investigating the theme of compassion in the thought of any of the following thinkers: Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Edmund Spenser, John Dryden, Renee Descartes, David Hume, Baruch Spinoza, William Blake, Joseph Addison, Francis Hutcheson, Lord Shaftesbury, Gottfried Lessing, Adam Smith; Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jaques Rousseau, Marcel Proust, Emily Bronte, Simone Weil.

5. Required Readings

*Note: Items on the ICS Library Reserve Shelf from this list may be borrowed overnight.

Plato. The Ion. In The Dialogues of Plato. Trans. B. Jowett. New York: Scribner [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B358 .C3 1997 c.1]

Plato. The Symposium. In Plato: Complete Works. Ed. J.M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997. [ICS Library Reserve: B358 C3 1997 c. 1]  

Plato. The Republic. Ed. Andrea Tschemplik. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005.[Robarts Library: JC71 P35 2005X]

Aristotle. The Poetics. Ed. S.H. Butcher. New York: Dover, 1951. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PN1040 .A513 1997]

Aristotle. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civil Discourse. Trans. George Kennedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PN173 .A7 K4 (1991 ed.)

Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria, Vol. II. Trans. H.E. Butler. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

Lucius Annasus Seneca. Moral Essays. Translated by John W. Basore. The Loeb Classical Library. London: W. Heinemann, 1928-1935. 3 vols. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PA6665 .A1 2003 v.1-3 ; SMC Kelly Library: PA6156 .S4 M6]

Michael Psellos. “Sermon on the Crucifixion.” Trans. Elizabeth A. Fisher. In “Image and Ekphrasis in Michael Psellos” Sermon on the Crucifixion.” Byzantinoslavica, 55 (1994) 1, 44-55. [Robarts Library: CB231 .B9]

Hermannus Alemannus. “Translation of Averroes” “Middle Commentary” on Aristotle’s Poetics: Extracts’ of Aristotle.In Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c.1100-c.1375: The Commentary Tradition. Eds. A.J. Minnis and A.B. Scott. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, 289-313. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PN88 .M395 1991 ; Trinity College Library: PN88 .M45 1988]

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun. The Romance of the Rose. Trans. Frances Horgan Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PQ1528 .A45 2008 ; Robarts Library: PQ1528 .A45 1994]

Dante Alighieri. The Divine Comedy. Trans. Mark Musa. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PQ4315 .M8 1984 v.1-3 ; Robarts Library: PQ 4315 .M8 1982]

William Shakespeare. The Tempest. Ed. Frank Kermode. London: Methuen, 1961. [Robarts Library: PR2833 A2 K53 1961]

Immanuel Kant. Ethical philosophy: the complete texts of Grounding for the metaphysics of morals, and Metaphysical principles of virtue, part II of The metaphysics of morals. Trans. James W. Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983. Sects. 29-35 [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: B2766 .E5 E44 1983]

Arthur Schopenhauer. On the Basis of Morality. Trans. E.F.J. Payne. Indianapolis: New York, 1965. Part III, chaps V-VIII [Robarts Library: B3114 .E5 P3]

Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights. Ed. Heather Glen. London; New York: Routledge, 1988 [Roberts Library: PR4172 W7 1988]

Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. In The Portable Nietzsche. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Penguin, 1982 [Robarts Library: B3312 .E5 K3 1969]

________________. From The Birth of Tragedy. In Tragedy. Eds. John Drakakis and Naomi Liebler. London and New York: 1998, pp. 53-64. [Pratt Library: B3312 .E5 G6 1990]

6. Some Recommended Readings

Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1994. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: N7850 .B4513 1994]

Benjamin, Walter. The Origin of German Tragic Drama. Trans. John Osborne. London: Verso, 1963. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PT671 .B413 2003]

Brueck, Katherine T. “The Sacramental Poetics of Simone Weil.” In The Redemption of Tragedy: The Literary Vision of Simone Weil. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995 [Robarts Library: PN1892 .B78 1995X]

Carr, Brian, “Pity and Compassion as Social Virtues,” Philosophy, Vol. 74, No. 289 (1999), 411-429. [UTL e-journal]

Carrol, Nol. “Art, Narrative, and Moral Understanding.” In Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection. Ed. Jerrold Levinson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998 [Robarts Library: BH39 .A288 1998X]

Cartwright, David. “Kant’s View of the Moral Significance of Kindhearted Emotions and the Moral Insignificance of Kant’s View.” The Journal of Value Inquiry, 21 (1987), 291-304. [UTL e-journal]

Dox, Donnalee. The Idea of the Theater in Latin Christian Thought: Augustine to the Fourteenth Century. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2004. [Robarts Library: PA 6074 D695 2004X]

Eagleton, Terry. Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BH301 .T7 E23 2002]

Fisher, E.A. “Image and Ekphrasis in Michael Psellus- Sermon on the Crucifixion.” Byzantinoslavica, 55.1 (1994), 53 [Robarts Library: Robarts Library: CB231 .B9]

Frazer, Michael L. “The compassion of Zarathustra : Nietzsche on sympathy and strength.” The Review of politics (2006), vol. 68, no1, pp. 49-78 [UTL e-journal]

Fulton, Rachel. From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BT590 .C85 F85 2002]

Guyer, Paul. “Pleasure and Knowledge in Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics.” In Schopenhauer, Philosophy, and the Arts. Ed. Dale Jacquette. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. [Robarts Library: B3149 .A4 S37 1996X]

HaCohen, Ruth. “The Music of Sympathy in the Arts of the Baroque; or, the Use of Difference to Overcome Indifference.” Poetics Today, 22: 3 (Fall 2001), 607-650. [UTL e-journal]

Halliwell, Stephen. The Aesthetics of Mimesis: Ancient Texts and Modern Problems.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002. [Robarts Library: BH81 .H35 2002X]

James, Susan. Passion and Action: The Emotions in Seventeenth Century Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. [St. Michael's College Library: B815 .J36 1997]

Kaufmann, Walter. Tragedy and Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. [Victoria University, Pratt Library: PN1892 .K3]

Keaty, Anthony. “The Christian Virtue of Mercy: Aquinas’ Transformation of Aristotelian Pity.” Heythrop Journal. Vol. 46, Issue 2 (April, 2005), 181-198. [UTL e-journal]

Kirsch, Arthur. “Virtue, Vice, and Compassion in Montaigne and the Tempest.” Studies in English Literature. 1500-1900, 37, 2 (1997), 337-362. [UTL e-journal]

Kobialka, Michal. This Is My Body: Representational Practices in the Early Middle Ages. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. [Robarts Library: PA8077 .K63 1999]

Konstan, David. Pity Transformed. London: Duckworth, 2001. [Robarts Library: PA3001 .K65 2001]

Levene, D.S. “Pity, Fear and the Historical Audience: Tacitus on the Fall of Vitellius.” In The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature. Eds. Susanna Norton Braund and Christopher Gill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997 [Victoria University, Pratt Library: PA6029 .E56 P37 1997]

McCarthy, John A. “Criticism and Experience: Philosophy and Literature in the German Enlightenment.” In Philosophy and German Literature, 1700-1990. Ed. Nicholas Saul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, 13-56. [Robarts Library: PT111 .P44 2002]

Morrison, Karl F. I Am You:Hermeneutics of Empathy in Western Literature, Theology, and Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. [Regis Library: PN56 .E62 M67 1988]

Nussbaum, Martha. “Compassion: The Most Basic Social Emotion.” Social Philosophy and Policy 13 (1996), 27-58. [UTL e-journal]

_______________. The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BJ192 .N8]

_______________. Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. [Victoria University, Pratt Library: BJ46 .N87 1992]

_______________. “Tragedy and Self-Sufficiency: Plato and Aristotle on Fear and Pity.” In Essays on Aristotle’s Poetics, ed. A. Rorty (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 261-290. [Robarts Library: PN1040 .A53 R67 1992]

_______________. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: BF531 .N87 2001]

Pensky, Max. Melancholy dialectics: Walter Benjamin and the play of mourning. Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1993. [Robarts Library: PT2603 .E455 Z796 1993]

Pinotti, A. , Du Bos, “L’empatia e i neuroni specchio.” In Jean-Baptiste Du Bos e l’Estetica dello Spettatore. Ed. L. Russo. Roma: Centro Internazionale di Studi Estetici, 2007, 203-212.

Steiner, George. The Death of Tragedy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. [ICS Library Reserve Shelf: PN1892 .S7 1980]

Webb, Ruth. “Imagination and the Arousal of the Emotions in Greco-Roman Rhetoric.” In The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature. Eds. Susanna Norton Braund and Christopher Gill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. [Robarts Library: PA6029 .E56 P37 1997]

Young, Julian. Schopenhauer. London: Routledge, 2005. [Robarts Library: B3148 .Y67 2005 and UTL e-book]

Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability/health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach me and/or Student Services as soon as possible.

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