What is compassion? Is compassion a human emotion, a personality characteristic (different have it in varying degrees) a duty or a virtue??
Compassion is a feeling aroused by an acknowledged awareness that others are suffering. The feeling depends on the ability to inherent in humans (and some animals) to make a connection with others so as to be aware of their sufferings.
Compassion necessitates identification with the sufferers and it allows for an evaluation of the magnitude of the suffering. If this identification is absent, the sufferer can be considered alien and no connection will be formed. The ability to connect and identify with others is of varying degrees, with the feeling of compassion varying in intensity with the nature of the person and the circumstance.
Compassion is an emotion, and its magnitude is a function of personality characteristics.
We also feel compassionate pity for those who are like us in age, character, disposition, social standing or birth, for in all these cases it appears more likely that the same misfortune may be fall us also.
Here too we have to remember the general principle that what we fear for ourselves excites our pity when it happens to others. This comes closer to the social nature of compassion and at the same time to the inescapably social nature of being human. The paradox of compassion, like that of love, is that it is private, born of personal subjectivity and social.