Darwin Centre Trust
  Darwin International Institute for the Study of Compassion
  Darwin Scholarship Programme

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WHY STUDY COMPASSION?

The Darwin Centre Trust and DIISC were launched in 2015 to address the need for an academically rigorous investigation of the nature of compassion. Easily championed, but everywhere alarmingly challenged, compassion can too readily be relegated as a “soft” or “pious” quality, sidelined by more instrumental, technical, pragmatic or ideological concerns. Compassion needs to be reconsidered, re-evaluated and consciously integrated into the understanding and practices of society as:

  • a primary value and requirement in a modern world that, at individual, social, institutional and political levels, frequently fosters its opposite – a fear of annihilation of valued social institutions, of groups, and of the self – is widespread

  • a means of treating others with the same concern, attention and generosity that one would wish for oneself; refraining from treating them as one would not wish to be treated oneself; being open to, disturbed by, empathetic to, and moved to respond to the experience and pain of others

  • a difficult and challenging quality that itself requires better understanding; which requires the recognition of, and engagement with, pain, damage, anxiety, anger and difference, and the exploitative, competitive, violent or simply self-centred feelings and motives which also drive human beings, individually and collectively

  • something that has been split off from and relegated to a subsidiary place in technical or professional skills, and collective enterprises, and that needs to be reintegrated as a core and primary component of all such practices and wider social relations

  • an evolutionary phenomenon emerging as a positive and dynamic aspect in social relations as human beings have learned to cooperate and preserve themselves and their communities

  • an attitude and a practice that, in turn, depends on social relations for its cultivation and sustenance – relations that can be thought about, constructed and nourished to do that, or which can work directly against compassionate  mindedness and behaviour

  • a quality that depends on the individual, the group, the organisation and society developing the skills and the habit of self-awareness and reflection

  • a quality that requires, for its exploration and understanding, a dialogue between and synthesis of many traditions and discourses, including scientific, psychological, philosophical, historical, cultural, religious, sociological and political perspectives
Photograph: Richard Hammerton
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