The issues of morality and sympathy often go hand-in-hand and both can sometimes play a crucial role in a person’s decision-making process. In the article of Jonathan Bennett the differences between these two terms are discussed through the examination of three rather different examples. The case of a fiction character Huckleberry Finn provides a valuable insight into the interaction of morality and sympathy. Through the exploration of his dilemma the terms are illustrated and the conclusions are drawn about the conduct of human beings.
For Bennett, morality is a set of principles one has that serve as a framework for making decisions, which are especially helpful in difficult situations. Sympathy, on the other hand, is defined quite broadly and relates to any feeling towards a fellow human being that is considerate of other’s sufferings or pain. These two concepts can often contradict each other; and a person sometimes finds himself or herself facing the dilemma between acting according to one’s morality and conceding to the feeling of sympathy.
In the case of Huckleberry Finn, he faces the problem when helping to escape a runaway slave Jim. He comes to realize that helping him to escape is acting against Huck’s own morality. However, the sympathy he has for Jim pulls him into a completely opposite direction. In the end he just decides to abandon his morality altogether and act according to his gut feeling. It doesn’t occur to him that morality can be revisited and improved.
Looking at the example of Huckleberry Finn and drawing more general conclusions, it is important to realize that morality and sympathy are most of the times in a continuous struggle with each other. One should learn to balance these two things and let each of them overweigh once in a while. From the experience of Huck one can take the lesson of not abandoning one’s morality but rather working on it gradually and frequently reassessing one’s moral principles.